I’ll get right to the point – I only attended summer camp once when I was a young girl and I was NOT a happy camper!!! Twice this week I was reminded of my summer camp experience. The first was while driving to Letchworth this past Tuesday – I drove by a sign for Silver Lake (the location of my summer camp experience) and my immediate reaction was to tense up and think “oh, no – don’t turn down that road!” – I actually felt a wave of negative energy boil up through me! The second was while watching this week’s episode of Royal Pains (a really good doctor themed show on USA) on DVR – two of the characters – Dr. Hank and Boris – were talking and going to camp as a child came up in the conversation – Boris said he went, but he didn’t like it and Dr. Hank said “me, either” and I spoke right up and said “neither did I”!
So, that sets the stage. Now for the story.
I’m not really sure how old I was when I attended a two-week camp program at Silver Lake, but near as I can figure, I must have been about 8 or 10. It was the first time I was away from home for so long, but I remember I was looking forward to it. I packed all my camp type clothes – bathing suits, shorts, t-shirts, jeans, etc. – and my Mom drove me to camp. It seemed like it took FOREVER to get there, so I imagined I was going to be a very long way from home. Up until this past week when I saw the sign for Silver Lake and it was only a little over an hour away, I still imagined that camp was a LONG way from home! Funny how things like that stick with you. Anyway, we got to the camp and did the orientation thing and found the cabin I was going to be staying in with (if memory serves) six other girls and a teenaged counselor – each cabin had the same number of girls and our own teenaged counselor. Then, the parents all left and we started our first week’s activities. The rule was no contact with anyone outside camp, so I wasn’t going to be able to call home or get calls, but we were encouraged to write letters every day to send home with details of what we did each day. Then, on the weekend between the two weeks, they had a parent’s picnic day when they could come visit and see what we were learning about.
So, we had lots of fun stuff to do — all of which make up the good memories that I have to really think about to bring forward from being over shadowed by the bad memories. There was canoeing, swimming, archery, crafts, nature walks, fishing, and lots more cool stuff. For the most part, the other girls were nice and fun and the counselors and staff were all dedicated to ensuring we all had fun and learned a lot. The food was good, too – I especially remember breakfast in the mess hall. I also remember church services on log benches in the woods – that was cool. All in all, it was a typical camp filled with fun and exciting things that should have made for a wonderful experience. But, it was, unfortunately, overshadowed by one incident that was, and remains, the standout memory of camp for me.
It happened a couple of days into the first week. I was walking down a hill and slipped. When I fell, I banged my elbow on a rock….HARD! It hurt – BAD!!! The counselors took me to the infirmary to have it checked out and the medical personnel there determined there was nothing broken – just badly bruised. They put ice on it, bandaged it to keep me from moving it too much, and sent me back out to the activities. I wanted to call my Mom, but they wouldn’t let me – they said it wasn’t a bad injury, so they would stick to the rule of no contact. They said I would see her on Sunday when she comes for Parent’s Day. That didn’t set well with me. I was hurt, a long way from home, and wanted to talk to my Mom! That night, my whole arm ached so bad — the elbow throbbed and throbbed and my shoulder hurt (probably from being jammed when I fell on the elbow) and my wrist hurt. I laid there crying because of the pain and because I couldn’t talk to my Mom. I cried for what seemed like hours until I finally fell asleep. Over the next day or two, my arm was so sore that I couldn’t do some of the activities – the counselors took me to the infirmary, again, and they did put it in a sling to help immobilize it some. After a couple of days, it was much better – so, it was just as minor as the medical personnel thought it was. But, by then, the damage was done. I was teased by some of the other girls who thought it was funny to make fun of the girl who couldn’t do everything they could and who cried herself to sleep. I felt like I was missing out on the fun. And, I was more homesick than I probably would have been if the accident hadn’t happened. By the time Sunday came around and Mom arrived for Parent’s Day, I was so happy to see her, but was all better. I told her what happened and she was FURIOUS that they didn’t call and let her know I was hurt! I believe she went in and gave them a huge piece of her mind over that one. But, I didn’t beg her to let me cut my camp time short and take me back home with her. I stayed the second week and all went well. But…….I never asked to go to camp again after that year and never agreed to go if it was brought up. That was my first and last summer camp.
It was only 2-3 days out of a full two weeks of camp, but those 2-3 days still, to this day, stand out as the defining days of Silver Lake Summer Camp for me. It is such a shame, cause when I get reminders about camp, like the two I had this week, I immediately think of how much I hated it and how horrible it was………then, I think for a minute or two and remember the fun stuff and the cool things I learned and how I won the highest awards for archery and target shooting and church in the woods and sleeping in a cabin with a bunch of other girls and singing around a campfire and jumping off the dock into the cool lake and so much more! After I get past the initial tense wave of negative energy I feel when the thought of summer camp comes up, I realize it wasn’t so bad and I feel a little sad that one bad experience and 2-3 not-so-good days ruined what should have been a great childhood memory and kept me from having more such memories.
Maybe I didn’t hate camp that much……..maybe I was a happy camper, after all — at least for 3/4 of the two weeks!