Apparently, my mother had seen some bizarrely misinformed weather report in New York that there was a terrible cold front passing across Maine, which couldn’t have been farther from the truth. When the counselor opened my package in the 90-degree heat of that summer day, there was nothing inside the box except a red, fleece-lined coat.
The counselor was very puzzled by the fact that I’d just received a coat in the mail during a heat wave, but since there was no candy inside any of its pockets, she let me take it back to my tent with me. I carefully folded it and put it at the bottom of my trunk, never to be worn. Then I cried because I wished I could tell my mother it was actually hot as fuck at camp, and also thank her for her thoughtful gift, which happened to be the least necessary or helpful item she could have sent me.
If you ask my parents about their experience at Muddy Stream on Visiting Weekend, they will both attest to the fact that one of the first sentences my father said to my mother after setting foot on the camp grounds was, “Where the hell did you send our daughter?” Almost twenty five years later, he still can’t get over the fact that when it started to rain, everyone else at the camp somehow had an anorak with them somewhere on their person, which they were all then able to whip out and don at the very first sign of a drizzle, making us the only ones caught in a torrential downpour without adequate clothes. Such preparedness for the outdoors in Maine was completely foreign to the Nierman family.
There is VHS footage somewhere in my Mom’s closet of me joylessly partaking in a pathetic parade where we held up a paper mache globe while being driven in the back of a pick-up truck. There is also footage, taken shortly after my family arrived for the weekend, of me crouching behind my parents’ car, hiding from the camp authorities while I cram illegal fudge into my mouth with both of my hands, like a wild animal.
My mother describes walking into the dining room the last day of Visiting Weekend to meet me for breakfast and seeing me sitting all alone at one end of a long communal table. At the other end of the table was a family who were speaking loudly and animatedly to each other in Cantonese. My parents were fully prepared to take me home that day, but when given the choice between staying and learning a Life Lesson (plus, getting my ears pierced when I got home), and leaving and always knowing I’d wussed out on summer camp (and not getting my ears pierced when I got home), I decided I would stick it out and stay for the second session – another 4 weeks.
Business continued as usual after Visiting Weekend ended. I felt much better having seen my parents and sister, and now that we were in the home stretch, I didn’t feel as pessimistic as I had before. There was also one pleasant girl that arrived in my bunk for the second session who made the experience slightly more tolerable.
Then Hurricane Bertha rolled into town.
Those charming, white, canvas tents? Turns out they were prone to shrinking in hurricane-level rains, suddenly making it a safety threat for the campers to stay in our tents. We had to be quickly ushered into the Theater Cabin in terrifying, hurricane-level winds to protect us from the historic storm, which we were directly in the eye of.
The storm raged on outside. Once we were all seated in the cabin, one of the counselors took a seat in the middle of the room with a book in her hand and proceeded to read aloud to us. The management’s book selection for that night left much to be desired, as the book on the agenda for that evening was The Velveteen Rabbit, quite possibly the most depressing children’s book ever written. Here’s a tip for camp owners: there are literally *a million* better books to read to a room full of scared children during a hurricane than one about a sickly rabbit who is almost burnt in a fire and then completely forgotten about by his owner.