493. Camp

I remember Boy Scout camp. I was only there for two weeks when I was eleven, but it was far away from where the rest of my family was, and that was more important than how long it lasted. Some of my friends were there, but they were too busy defining themselves to think about defining me. Regardless of what else could be said of Camp Baiting Hollow, in my mind, the absence of my family was its key feature. At last, I was on my own. For two weeks, I could try finding out what that was going to be like.
I don’t have any particularly fond memories of Baiting Hollow. I remember “bug juice,” which we had every day for breakfast. I think it was a combination of fruit juices, called “bug juice” to make it more interesting, and maybe to teach us that you ought to try things even if they sound gross; you might like them. I remember some of the songs we sang. And I remember what fun the other kids had telling me about you-know-what. It was fun for them, because I was the designated “he doesn’t know” kid – the one you could make fun of for not “knowing.” I remember what they told me; they didn’t “know” either. But I was the only one to admit that I didn’t.
I don’t think the counselors were experts in child development. They weren’t naturalists, folk singers, or any other kinds of specialists. They were just regular guys. I think I was supposed to feel lucky that I had a chance to spend two weeks with only males, but it happened a few years too late for that. I had already stopped believing in “cooties,” and the idea of spending two weeks without any girls around wasn’t such a good idea, in my opinion.
I have friends who went to camps that sound much more interesting when they were children. Some went to camps where they learned how to think radical political thoughts. I had to learn that later. Some spent glorious evenings
singing folk songs around a campfire. And some went to camps where not everyone had the same gender. I think I would have enjoyed going to a camp that had more music and more genders. I wasn’t quite ready for radical politics, but maybe camp could have helped me get ready.
But camp taught me something very important. I learned that I could spend two weeks away from my family and still be okay. Maybe it helped prepare my parents, too; children grow up, and sooner or later, their parents have to cope with that reality. That’s an important lesson. It’s good preparation for college, and for later life.

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