Reimagining Summer Camp
This week I have thought quite a bit about memories and interpretation, inspired by the responses I received from former bunkmates about my overnight camp experience. I heard from many women – none of the ones who were outwardly mean to me – but girls I didn’t feel close to right away.
In my recollection, all of them had it all together, wearing the right clothes and knowing that you need to pack pink Daisy razors and not canteens. I was surprised to hear that many felt just as awkward and out of place. In my memory, I was a spaz and a dork and a lesbo. But in theirs, I was a sweet and funny girl.
So, which is the true representation of the summers of '84 and (most of) '85?
All of them. The best illustration of this point came from the girl whose bed was next to mine the summer I peed in a shower bucket – in fact, the girl whose shower bucket I used as a toilet.
"I loved [the Bucket Woman] story because to me it showed how silly, innocent, resourceful and funny we all were. I never looked at it as a negative personal assault to you. I guess we never know how things are interpreted. I even retold the story to my kids because to me it was just a silly, innocent time and you had a great sense of humor that I always enjoyed. I hope I never hurt your feelings during that tender time in our lives."
I teared up while reading her message, so touched by her sensitivity and the way she took advantage of a teaching moment for her children, reinforcing kindness and awareness of how words and actions can be interpreted.
Plus, she wasn't resentful about my urine in her shower caddy.
To the girls from my bunks who reached out to me, thank you. You turned some sour memories sweet, made the sweet memories sweeter, and showed me that I wasn't alone in feeling alone.
If my boys ever go to overnight camp, I hope they recognize the good people like you – and stand up to the ones who make them feel small.