Once upon a time at camp

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Girl Scout Day Camp, the words came from a public service announcement on the radio and were enough to bring up a host of memories and emotions.

There is a Summer Break Day Camp set for July 16 through July 20 that promises fun and excitement in the form of “games, sewing, crafts, hiking, songs and much more.” The location is Point A Lodge starting at 10 a.m. each day and ending at 2 p.m.

More years ago than I care to count, day camp was part of my summer. I don’t remember how old I was — beyond Brownie age, but not a teenager yet.

Every morning, we boarded a bus in Opp and traveled to the REA Lodge for a day of adventure. I remember crafts and a good bit of singing and hiking.

There were a lot of girls at camp, many of them new faces from different troops and towns. I’m sure some of them became friends for the week, but I’ve lost that part of the memory.

What did come back when I heard that announcement was a memory of being afraid and not wanting anyone to know I was afraid. Looking back it seems like a silly fear, but at the time, it felt real and far from silly.

You see the end of camp held a special treat — an event when parents came to see our crafts and I think we did an Indian dance and, again, lots of singing.

I remember we had snacks, but the only thing I recall with any clarity is the red Kool-Aid called “elk’s blood.” I guess that name had something to do with the Indian theme of the week.

That’s not the part that scared me. No, it was what happened before the final day. Prior to the singing and drinking of elk’s blood, there was a sleepover. The scouts who wanted to stay spent the night together, something most looked forward to all week and something I worried about all week.

I’m not sure if there were tents or if everyone slept in the lodge. All I know is the idea of staying away from home for that night terrified me, which made no sense since spend-the-night parties and campouts were old hat.

What I also remember is how my parents, my mother in particular, sensed my fear and gave me some excuse that allowed me to save face with my friends. I came back and participated in the last day’s activities and listened to the stories about the fun at the sleepover, half wishing I‘d stayed instead of giving in to my fear.

Funny, how the memories of childhood fears stay with us into adulthood. That short announcement brought up emotions I felt long ago, being afraid and judging myself harshly for being afraid. And, of course wanting to hide that fear because I feared what others might think.

I thought about that, wondered if I’ve grown past those emotions or if there are echoes of that child who wanted so desperately to hide her fear in the woman I am today. I’d like to say no, like to say I left all that behind with childhood.

I’m better. I fear things less and the older I get, the more I accept what I feel without judgment. Wow, all of that from a day camp announcement.

Well, I hope the girls who go to Summer Break Day Camp have fun, but if they do come up against some fear, I want them to know things will work out fine. It might take a few years, but like me, they will get better at dealing with the things that frighten them.

Oh and if they have red Kool-Aid, I hope they find a more appealing name for their drink.