Camp Muddy Stream: The Complete Saga

I wrote the following story about my first time going to sleepaway camp (an absolutely horrible experience) when I was 24. I actually wrote 10 full-length comedy essays like this one back then, each about a different hilariously crummy experience I’d had in my life. They were part of a collection I referred to as the “Kvetch” collection – but I never ended up doing anything with them.

So I’ve decided to try something new on here, now that I’ve got this shiny new blog to populate. I’m going to start a series with this post where I’ll release these “Kvetch” stories in installments (mad Dickension of me, I know). These tales won’t be COVID-19-related content, but they will be content about other miserable experiences from my life, so don’t worry – these stories are definitely still on-brand. 

So, without further ado, I present to you: The Tale of Camp Muddy Stream.

(House lights dim.) 

Two weeks after I graduated from 3rd grade, I found myself hurtling toward Maine on a coach bus, crying hysterically into my pillow and intensely regretting having pushed the whole ‘sleepaway camp’ thing so hard.

How could I not have pushed, though? The minute I realized that I was old enough to go away to a fun place outside of New York City where I could get a tan, walk around in my bare feet on wet grass in the morning, and meet new friends, I was sold on the idea. I HAD to go to sleepaway camp. 

So we started sending away for catalogues and informational videotapes about different sleepaway camps on the East Coast. For most of 3rd grade, every single day when I came home from school, there would be a new camp videotape that had come in the mail for me to watch. I would sit in my parents’ bedroom, cross-legged on the floor at the foot of their bed, watching tape after tape in the dark by myself. 

All of these camp videos showed interchangeable, skinny, shiny-haired white girls wearing Soffee shorts (rolled over at the waist, natch) and neon friendship bracelets, most of the time doing choreographed dances together and windsurfing. 80% of the videos also included a waterskiing montage set to the Dirty Dancing song, “Time of My Life,” which seemed dated and kind of depressing even in 1995. Still, it really did look like camp was THE place for me to be.   

One of the tapes stuck out to me. It was for a camp we’ll call Muddy Stream. Muddy Stream was in Maine, an eight-hour drive away from home, and boy, did this place seem like heaven. The campers – all girls – slept in airy, white, canvas tents set on wooden platforms. During rest hour, they all lounged around on their beds, talking and laughing with each other. There was tennis, and canoeing, and arts & crafts. I could even act in a play on stage! 

I loved the idea of going to Muddy Stream – and probably because I’m the oldest child, my parents agreed to not only let me attend Muddy Stream, but to go for 8 whole weeks, instead of what seemed to me like a measly 4. My best friend at the time, Sarah, came from the kind of WASP-y family that sends their children to boarding school when they turn 7, so it didn’t take much convincing for them to sign her up, too. Then, the deal was done. Sarah and I were going to Muddy Stream, and we were going to have the best summer of our FUCKING. LIVES.

That’s pretty much the only discussion I remember having with my parents about going to sleepaway camp at all until the night before I left, when all of a sudden it sank in that I was going away for 8 weeks the next day, and I decompensated.

We were moving apartments that summer, and the night before I left for Muddy Stream was the last one I would spend at the only apartment I could ever remember living in. I spent most of that last night at home sobbing hysterically, both at the prospect of leaving our apartment for the last time (what can I say, I’m a sentimental soul), but also because I’d only just actually realized that going away to camp meant that for the first time in my life, I was about to be away from my immediate family for an extended period of time.

Sure, I’d been on sleepovers by the time I was 9 – roughly 20 of them, in fact – but I’d been picked up early from 18 of those 20. On one failed sleepover, I’d crept out into the dark living room of a girl I went to school with and called my house after she and everyone else in her family had gone to bed. I remember whispering anxiously into their landline phone when my father answered, “No, Dad – tell Mom NOT to call back on their house line. I’ll call you again in ten minutes,” like I was Harriet the fucking Spy. Of course, five minutes later, I heard their phone ring, and when the girl’s mother came into her room to see if I was awake, I was sitting on their guest cot in the dark with my bag packed, already wearing my coat. (In my defense, this was after my playdate had told me to bring my Beanie Babies over so we could play with them, and then proceeded to play with them by lining up my sad little collection of two Beanie Babies on the floor, stomping on each one, and then informing me that “Beanie Baby playtime was over.” What gall! So you really can’t blame me for not wanting to stick around for a morning of waffles and more abuse; but I digress.)  

It was always too goddamn hot in everyone else’s apartment for me to fall asleep there. Time after time, I would agree to a sleepover at some friend’s house. Everything would be fine all afternoon and night, and then bedtime would roll around, at which point I’d find myself lying wide awake in whatever makeshift bed my hosts had prepared for me, schvitzing like a pig and wishing I was home. Finally, I wouldn’t be able to take it anymore, and I’d call my mother to come pick me up. 

The night before I left for Muddy Stream, it dawned on me that there would be no coming home from Maine. Even if I missed my parents – and I knew I would, I already did, even though they were sitting next to me on my bed – and even if I was too hot to sleep, I’d be stuck there in a tent in Maine. I think I slept for a grand total of half an hour that night before we had to leave the apartment and get a cab to the sidewalk in front of the Museum of Natural History, where the bus was picking us campers up at 7:00am. 

As we pulled up to the curb behind the coach bus, I felt like I was walking the plank. Shockingly, none of the other girls that were waiting for the bus seemed to care that they were about to leave their loving, wonderful, kind and supportive parents and sister for 8 whole weeks. They were joking around with each other, shrieking in a fun-loving little girl kind of way and ignoring their families already. I, on the other hand, was crying silently, wearing my mother’s sunglasses and acting like a homesick bummer before the summer had even begun. 

When it came time for me to board the bus, I deliberately sat in the seat right behind the driver next to the window so that I could wave goodbye to my parents and sister for what felt like an eternity. Then, as the driver finally revved the engine and we pulled away from the sidewalk to begin our long drive to Maine, I saw my mother’s mouth quiver, and I realized that she was crying, too. This only increased the intensity of the wracking sobs that were now loudly and uncontrollably emanating from my mouth. I was very visible up there in the front row of the bus, and I can still remember making awkward eye contact with the bus driver as I hyperventilated into my pillow, slumped over against the window, my hair plastered to my face with tears. The look of pity and disgust on that man’s face is still etched into my mind’s eye to this day, almost 25 years later.

After a while, crying became too exhausting, so I rested weakly until we pulled up to a winding dirt road that led through the woods next to a sign that said “Muddy Stream: ½ mile.” I’d spent most of my life in the tri-state area; this was definitely the farthest away from home that I’d ever been, and I was captivated by the sheer number of pine trees we passed by on the last leg of our drive to the camp. It was like being in Narnia. I perked up a little bit; maybe this summer wouldn’t be so terrible, after all. 

How wrong I was.

As luck would have it, my best friend, Sarah, and I were assigned to two different tents upon our arrival at Muddy Stream. She was assigned to Tent 4, and I was assigned to Tent 3. If this were a TV show, I’d now show you an image of Sarah’s tent as it appears in my memory: bathed in golden light and surrounded by butterflies, with the sound of girlish laughter filling the air around it. Then the camera would swing to show you my tent, which was basically Dracula’s lair, if you were comparing the two. Although the two tents were right next to each other, her tent was a lively place right in the sun, and mine was dark, depressing, and cold, because it sat in the shadow of a large, spooky tree that might as well have had buzzards in its branches. 

My tent-mates in Tent 3 were a motley crew of forgettable misfits (which I only really say because none of them were nice to me). Our counselor was a humorless English bitch named Janet, who had stringy hair and pointy cheekbones. Janet took an immediate disliking to me, and I’m *pretty* sure that it’s because I was the only Jew at Muddy Stream. (I guess I had missed the fine print in their informational literature that said, “If your last name is something like Greenbaum or Nierman, go to one of those other summer camps, where you can eat your gefilte fish and dance to your klezmer music somewhere away from us.”)

In Tent 3, and at Muddy Stream in general, my fellow campers didn’t get my sarcastic jokes or want to gossip with me about the other campers (I mean, come ON). In fact, the hardest I ever saw the other girls in Tent 3 laugh was when one of them put a pair of underpants on her head and did The Running Man for twenty minutes straight. This simple routine had the rest of the group in absolute stitches, which angered me greatly. Who the fuck did these bitches, with their flat stomachs and strong appreciation for shitty slapstick, think they were? I was from New York City, for crying out loud. I was supposed to be the coolest one there! Instead, I was getting an eight-week-long glimpse into what it was like to be Robin Williams’ character in “One Hour Photo,” and I was beginning to realize that it didn’t really matter where I was from if no one even wanted to talk to me.  

Sure, I guess it’s possible that Janet couldn’t stand me and no one wanted to be my friend because I spent most of my time running to the bathroom cabin – yes, that’s right, the bathroom cabin – to sit in a stall and bawl while writing crazy-person letters home to my parents. In these letters, I would make wild, dance-with-the-devil promises to them, assuring them that I would never misbehave or complain a single time ever again if they would just immediately get in the car the minute they got this letter, drive the 8 hours to Maine without even stopping for bathroom breaks, and then immediately take me back to New York City. That was all I was asking for. I would cry onto each letter, then circle the watermarks and write “tear” underneath each one. I probably sent two or three of these letters home every day for the first four weeks I was there, because another little fact that we’d overlooked when my parents signed me up to go to Muddy Stream was that campers at Muddy Stream were not allowed to call home even once the entire summer, even if one of the campers was a weakly-constituted urbanite with separation anxiety and heatstroke. 

The first night, as I lay in my bed (which was a military cot) feeling homesick and trying to fall asleep, I was suddenly jolted awake by the bloodcurdling sound of a woman screaming repeatedly. The sound was coming from the dense woods right behind my tent, which I’d have to walk through if I wanted to go to the bathroom cabin before sunrise. I was too scared to even speak, and spent the rest of the night shaking and having heart palpitations while I listened to what sounded like an audition for “Saw” going on mere yards away from where I lay. Strangely, the screams stayed consistent, both in pitch and volume, for the entire night. 

At my first breakfast the next morning, I discovered that all of the campers ate at long, communal tables with girls of all different ages mixed together. Shortly after sitting down, I turned to an older girl at my table, a complete stranger with long blonde hair, and tried to ask her what the fuck I had heard last night in the most casual way possible. “Hey!” I chirped in a high-pitched voice. “Weird question for you! Did you hear anything…weird…happening last night? Like, a lady screaming in the woods?” 

“Oh,” she snorted in response, laughing at me condescendingly as she rolled her eyes. “Those are the loons. Their calls sound exactly like a woman’s screams.” Then she turned away from me abruptly and dismissively, like I was the fool for not having known what the fuck a loon’s call sounds like. 

Fuck you, and fuck this place,” I thought to myself for the thousandth time already, despite only being 9 years old. (What can I say? You can take the girl out of New York City, but as I was quickly learning at Muddy Stream, you sure as hell can’t take the New York City out of the girl.) 

The only good part of an otherwise very bleak first week at Muddy Stream was when I got to go horseback riding for the very first time. Horseback riding felt like flying, and I had a kindly, old horse named Cloud as my companion and partner in crime for my lesson. Together, we made our way leisurely around the ring, and during those few minutes with Cloud, I actually felt like I was accomplishing something worthwhile. I decided that I didn’t need friends at this god-forsaken camp if I had Cloud. 

Fast forward to the following week, the morning of my second horseback riding lesson, when the head of the camp stood up after breakfast to make what she described as a ‘sad announcement.’

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 thereafterbut 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. 

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.

We managed to weather the hurricane in a Little House on the Prairie kind of way by staying inside that wooden cabin until the storm passed, which felt somewhat quaint and novel in a not-unpleasant way. However, upon returning to our tents, we learned that because the sides of our canvas tents had shrunk during the storm, any of our belongings that had been on the outer periphery of the tents had been soaked during the storm. Luckily, by this point in the summer, I cared about absolutely nothing at all, the way a person does when she’s fully dissociated from her present existence and is merely moving through the world as a shell of the person she once was. How was it possible that there could be still more camp to go?

For example, I normally love to swim. I have all my life. I hated swimming at Muddy Stream, though, and the reason for that is because of another thing that I had not considered when I begged my parents to sign me up for Muddy Stream: the vast difference between swimming in a glacier-fed lake in Maine and swimming in a pool, in the Atlantic Ocean, or in Lake Luzerne. These were the only three bodies of water I’d been swimming in before I arrived at Muddy Stream. When I was choosing which camp to go to, I’d figured that while the the rocky beach at Lake Luzerne hadn’t been my favorite thing, the water there had always been nice and warm – so how different could the glacier-fed lake at Camp Muddy Stream really be? 

You know what I’m going to say by now, which is that the glacier-fed lake at Muddy Stream was an entirely different beast from anything I’d experienced before. 

First of all, the water in Muddy Stream’s lake was completely opaque, and the color of the water was very dark green, bordering on black, like something out of a horror movie (or, more aptly, literally any Stephen King novel). There was some challenge at the camp every summer where the older campers would be allowed to try swimming across the lake to the shore on the other side, and then back, in order to get their name in the camp history books. You couldn’t have paid me to try that challenge. All I could think about every time I had swim class was how deep the lake must have been if a glacier had been there, and how long eternity was, and how many unrecovered ships and bodies there probably were shifting around listlessly in the silt miles and miles down at the bottom of the lake. 

Another thing about the lake at Camp Muddy Stream was that the water was always freezing cold, even in the middle of a heatwave under a beating hot sun. I’d emerge from the water after swim class with a blue mouth and my teeth chattering, because I never seemed to warm up, no matter how many pointless lap drills I did back and forth between the docks for an hour (which is what our swim class consisted of). 

Thirdly, though, and most importantly of all, the main difference between the lake at Camp Muddy Stream and the other bodies of water that I’d actually enjoyed swimming in was this: there were fucking *leeches* in the lake at Camp Muddy Stream. We were regularly warned by our swim counselors about being conscious to avoid the many fat, shiny, blood-thirsty leeches that were hiding underneath the wooden dock we’d sit on before class began, with our feet dangling over the sides of the dock into the water. As a precautionary measure against the leeches, blocks of salt had been installed directly beneath the dock, but clearly this salt block method of leech prevention was a bunch of inadequate bullshit, which is a lesson I learned one afternoon toward the end of the summer.

My fellow campers and I were sitting on the dock in our matching, camp-issued one-piece bathing suits, waiting for swim class to start. A little blonde pipsqueak in my class was sitting directly to my right on the dock next to me, and she was playfully kicking her feet in the lake as we waited for our counselor to show up. All of a sudden, she let out a scream that could have woken the dead bodies at the bottom of the lake. Then, she started wildly gesticulating at her left foot, which she was now holding straight up in the air above the water. As I looked at her exposed foot and saw her left baby toe glint in the sunlight, it dawned on me with horror that affixed to her toe was now a leech so big that it took up her entire toe. Seriously, it looked like she had four human toes, and then one toe that was just made out of a big-ass leech. 

The kid was panicking, and the rest of us didn’t really know what to do. Then, two counselors appeared on the dock out of nowhere and rushed up to Ol’ Leech-Foot. They grabbed her under her arms and quickly hoisted her off the dock over to the shoreline, where they proceeded to pour what looked like half a container of Morton’s table salt on her toe to kill the leech and get him to fall off her foot. I was disgusted – scarred, even – but not surprised. What else could I expect at this ghastly place? 

Well, as it turned out, the answer to that question ended up being: anti-Semitism, every Jew’s favorite addition to summer camp!

This formative incident happened while I was standing in line behind two sinewy older girls at the Theater Cabin (of Hurricane Bertha fame). We were waiting for our final play rehearsal to start. One of the two girls had arrived for rehearsal that day in a hideous, brightly-colored, seasonally-inappropriate beanie that looked like a hacky sack. 

With a disgusted look on her face, the other girl gestured to the first girl’s hat and asked scathingly, “Why are you wearing a Jew hat?!” 

The one in the beanie looked insulted. Reaching up to touch her “Jew hat” defensivelyshe snapped back, “It’s not a Jew hat, it’s just a hat!”

Well, good,” said the other girl menacingly, “because Jews don’t come here.”

Aaaaaawkward. Talk about uncomfortable, damn. 

Part of me wanted to tap the beanie-and-Jew-hating girl on the shoulder and say, “actually, your shitty little theory is completely wrong, because I’m a Jew, I’m right here, and I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that monstrosity,” which would have been a very 1996 insult. However, a bigger part of me suspected that these girls probably didn’t know what the word ‘monstrosity’ meant, and also, I didn’t want to get hate-crimed. So I decided to bite my tongue instead of saying anything, and just stew about it for the rest of my life, instead. 

Finally – and thankfully – it came time for our last campfire of the summer, which took place the night before we left camp. Looking around at my fellow campers, I did, in fact, see girls in neon rope bracelets with their arms wrapped around each other lovingly. Everyone else was crying. They were all sad that another great summer at Muddy Stream was coming to an end. I was also crying – but my tears were tears of sweet, sweet joy, because tomorrow, I was finally getting the hell out of that dump, and it couldn’t happen any quicker. 

That night, I woke up at 3am and realized that I had to go to the bathroom. (Just so you know, I only had to pee. This isn’t a story where I’m telling you about how I had to take a dump in the night). Sighing, for the last time ever, I put on my sandals, took my flashlight from its designated place next to my cot, and stepped between the flaps of my tent out into the quiet, cold, moonlit night to head to the Bathroom Cabin. I made my way through the dark woods behind my tent, carefully down the dirt path and over the root of the big tree that you had to be careful not to trip on. It was very dark, as always. (Frankly, I would be too scared to make this walk as an adult, but somehow, I did it every night that summer.) Finally, I arrived at the Bathroom Cabin, where I could see the enormous moths that covered the cabin’s window screens, their wings fluttering in the light. I passed by the moths, entered the building, made my way to a stall, sat down… 

And woke up. In my cot. Turned out, I had been dreaming that *entire time,* and – much to my utter surprise – I had actually just wet the bed for the first (and only) time in my life. It was truly a summer of firsts!

Between you and me, I was so filled with rage and hatred for Camp Muddy Stream by this point that my first thought upon realizing what had just happened wasn’t, “OMG, I just wet the bed at camp and I’m so old and this is horrifying.” No; what I actually remember thinking, as I finished placing a hand towel over the wet spot and climbing back into bed to continue sleeping, was, “good – I’m glad Janet is going to have to clean this up in the morning.” It was definitely time for me to leave Camp Muddy Stream. 

I don’t remember anything from the last morning except sheer anticipation to get home and an utter lack of being sad that my time at Muddy Stream had come to an end. The bus ride back seemed much shorter, since I knew I was heading for home, sweet home, and also since it actually was shorter, because I was being dropped off in Connecticut. I couldn’t wait to get off that bus and away from Muddy Stream forever. I knew there wasn’t a chance in hell that I would ever go back to that godforsaken place again, and I also knew that I would see my family and dog soon. Both of these facts brought great relief to my heart and soul. 

We finally pulled up at the designated bus drop-off stop for Camp Muddy Stream in Connecticut. As the bus driver parked the bus, I saw the most wonderful sight I’d ever seen: my parents and sister standing in the parking lot, waving at the bus excitedly with big grins plastered on their faces. I hopped down the stairs of the bus, said goodbye to literally no one, grabbed my shit, and headed back to the comfort of my loving family and my familiar, real life. I then didn’t go back to sleepaway camp for another 3 years (and then to a performing arts camp in a castle where everything was purple – but that’s a story for another time). 

The moral of the Muddy Stream story is this: if your child already has separation anxiety, and you accidentally send her to military boot camp when she is 9, there is a very good chance that she will still be living at home with you when she’s 24.

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