Continued from yesterday’s post, Camp Muddy Stream: Part 3…
Looking out at the crowd of campers, she bowed her head and said, “I’m very sorry to have to tell you this, but last night, our beloved horse, Cloud, passed away in his sleep. His body will be buried on the camp grounds, and we’ll always remember him fondly.”
That is a thing that ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
Time went on. Since I was having such a fabulous time, the first 4 weeks of camp passed by like molasses. The days felt at least 72 hours long each. I grew accustomed to not speaking with anyone. I also grew accustomed to taking 3-minute-long showers, because we were LITERALLY TIMED by a counselor to make sure we didn’t break the 3-minute showering rule. (I made sure to inform my mother of the showering regulations in many of my letters home, hoping that when she learned that she had mistakenly sent me to some child version of SEAL boot camp, she would come pick me up, but to no avail.)
I remember sitting in the candle-making tent during art period for hours on end, both because it was cooler in there and because I found the repetitive motion of dipping the candles to be vaguely therapeutic. I spent all of my rest periods re-reading letters from home and crying silently on my cot while Janet yelled at me to “get up and clean” because “cleaning would make me feel better,” which was definitely not true and proof of how little Janet knew me. It was a non-stop party, let me tell you.
We went camping in the woods a number of times throughout those 4 weeks. Listen, I understand that camping appeals to a lot of people, but even at 9 years old, I was not one of them. Eating out of a dirty tin cup while sitting on a worm-riddled log and getting bitten by mosquitoes has never been my idea of a rockin’ Saturday night in July. I like some nice air conditioning, a glass of cold water, and a good book on a summer’s day, not hiking through the woods in a single-file line for three hours straight while feeling like I’m going to drop dead.
I *did* make one loyal friend on one of our hiking trips. Compared to my fellow campers, he was quite a talkative chap – and he was a bright orange fucking SLUG. I named him Pumpkin, and I carried him on my finger all the way back from the campsite in the woods to Muddy Stream, where I set him free in front of my tent to enjoy the lush grass. Now that I think about it, he probably got stepped on and smushed by some twit in moccasins shortly thereafter, but at the time I thought I had done a mitzvah.
We were vehemently NOT ALLOWED CANDY at Muddy Stream, and the heads of the camp and all of the counselors were extremely phobic and paranoid about the possibility that we would somehow get ahold of this immoral contraband. I’m *pretty* sure that if a girl had been caught at Muddy Stream with a toothbrush shank in her fanny pack, she would have been punished less harshly than if she’d been caught packing a Butterfinger.
The ban on candy was so extreme that when you got a package, you had to line up on the porch of the dining hall and wait until it was your turn to bring your package to the ‘opening table.’ This is where 3 counselors would open each camper’s package before she’d be allowed to take it back to her tent. This ridiculous measure was presumably to make sure that none of the packages had false bottoms, which – God forbid – might have been concealing something delicious.
I’m almost positive that I once saw a counselor cut open a camper’s new teddy bear because she thought there was candy hidden inside of it…but then there was nothing in the goddamn bear. It was like “Night of the Hunter,” but with candy instead of diamonds. This could definitely be an invented memory, but even if it is, it speaks volumes about the degree to which Muddy Stream cared about healthy eating habits.
One hot July day, my counselor, Janet, informed me that I had a package waiting for me at the mail center. I was elated; I love getting mail, and a whole package is much better than a letter when you’re a kid hating your time at camp. I patiently waited in line while the counselors performed their prison guard duties, and when it was my turn to have my package opened, I handed it over to them excitedly.