Summer Camp

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Fifteen years ago on July 24th 1999,  I left for my first week long stay away from home at summer camp. After watching and obsessing over the Parent Trap I begged my parents to send me to camp to find my long lost English twin. After checking into Camp Walden For Girls in Maine (the camp from the movie) and learning that it was around $5,000 to stay for the week, my parents chose to send me to a camp in Iowa instead. 

A little place of outdoor heaven called Camp Foster in Okoboji.

I was sent a pack-list in the mail about two months before camp started. I can still picture the small booklet in my head because I studied it almost every night leading up to the big day. There were some nights I even fell asleep reading it in bed. If I had my camp scrapbook in front of me I would take a photo of the booklet to show (because yeah, I made a camp scrapbook obviously) but sadly all 482 of my scrapbooks are in Nebraska.

What I'm saying is that I was excited. I started packing about two weeks early to ensure I wouldn't forget any of my best Umbro shorts, my favorite Nike one-piece swimsuits, my coolest Rider sandals (so silver or pink obviously), or any of my classiest athletic t-shirts- i.e. any shirt that read "Eat, Sleep (fill in the last word with any sport and I owned the shirt.)

When I finally got to camp it was full of every camp cliche I had ever hoped for. Bunk-beds in cabins and a mess hall and canoes by a lake and a huge a flag pole in the middle of it all (which I would come to hate once I learned "flag call" was every morning at 7:00 a.m.)  The only thing missing was the dirty mirror outside the rec room that said "this mirror is clean, are you?" Please someone get the 90s Nickelodeon reference.

Anyway, if you've ever been to camp you know that there is always a "cute girl" cabin. Because I watched Bug Juice before leaving for Foster, I had high hopes of being in that cute girl cabin, and perhaps even finding myself a camp boyfriend. I mean why not? It was summer camp after all, crazy things were about to happen! And what I failed to mention above is that beyond all of my athletic attire I packed, I also packed a few sunflower outfits from Limited Too, you know for special occasions.

But sadly reality was about to hit me right in the face.

I think I first realized I was in the weirdo cabin one morning in the mess hall when suddenly almost all of the other tables started the "we want back rubs" chant. The girl cabins would demand back rubs from their favorite boy cabins and vice versa. It looked like fun so God bless our hearts, Hakowie #137 (that was my cabin) decided to join in as well.

"Hakowie wants some back rubs, some back rubs, some back rubs. Hakowie wants some back rubs, some back rubs, some back rubs, so who will come on over?" Kind of a creepy song for little kid campers to sing, but that's not the point. The point is my cabin continued to sing and yet no one came over. No one wanted to back rub the creepy Hakowie girls.

Then I realized we were definitely the weirdo cabin. There was no way around it.

And it made sense. We had two girls who only dressed as wizards (this was pre Harry Potter hype) one girl who wore her backpack at all times, but she refused to wear it anywhere but her front, so it was more like a stomach pack. Another girl in our cabin liked to wear pant-suits with her sneakers like she was always late to a business meeting, I still don't know what that was about. And then we also had the camp smelly kid, the girl who pissed her bed every night yet never seemed to show up for shower time. I know a lot of kids suffer from bed wetting, they just don't usually go to camp and take a top bunk. And then refuse to shower. Ah Shawnie. Wonder where she is today. And I wonder if she's still wearing the same red shirt that hangs to her knees that says, "Beef. It's What For Dinner."

Besides the rest of the crew I just described,  there was my friend I came with, Sarah, and myself. We were the same age, but she looked at least five years older- a quality that would serve her very well in middle school. Luckily I had a very inflated self esteem at that age and failed to realize both my teeth and ears were about two sizes too big for my small body. I was 12 but looked 9, perhaps even 8. My feet however were bigger than most adults. And I almost always had chip crumbs in the corner of my mouth/chip mouth sores because I was always eating chips at camp. I packed like ten bags of Doritos just to be safe, they were like my security blanket.

So for our seven days at camp, Cabin Hakowie never once got back rubs. Well that's not technically true I guess, on the third day we asked and no boys came over the mess hall staff felt bad for us so they came out from the kitchen (and even removed their plastic gloves) to cheer up the weird cabin. That's kind of when you know things are bad. When the lunch ladies in hair nets and orthopedic shoes feel sorry for you.

And so I slowly gave up hopes of finding a camp boyfriend, who if I had to choose would have been a boy named Clayton who had spiky bleached white hair and wore a white puka shell necklace... Not that I remember him or anything. One time I got to talk to Clayton because our two cabins had a scheduled lake activity.  I thought he was going to touch my face, but he was actually just pointing to seaweed that was stuck to my forehead. It must have gotten there when I had fallen out of my canoe.

Oh, camp memories.

Even though I quickly started to hate camp after just a day or two because of all the bullshit we had to do- get up early to go to the flagpole, participate in stupid activities all damn day, eat crappy food, sleep in bunks that always seemed wet (thanks Shawnie) take cold showers, spend long nights singing the worst songs around the campfire, just to name a few things... Looking back I couldn't be happier about the experience. It was as "cliche campy" as it gets.

I think every kid needs a camp experience. Or at least the realization that the cute girl cabin probably isn't that fun anyway, and maybe it's not so bad to belong with the weirdos after all.


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20 comments:

  1. I think I went to camp once when I was eleven before I became a camp counselor circa 18-19. I cried every night for my mom at age 11. And then I cried every night for the children to shut up and go to sleep at 18-19. Oh the camp days.

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  2. I loved summer camp! Until my parents sent me to one that was THREE weeks long, I was in 6th grade. Umm, no. PS Love the Iowa reference :)

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  3. I never got to go to overnight summer camp; we had 6th grade camp for three days during the school year and it was always such a tease. But the Clayton kid? Met the same type of kid in Myrtle Beach one summer and thought he was hot shit. Gotta wonder what these gems are up to now...

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  4. UMBROS!!! Those were my jam and the only thing I wore in elementary school. I laughed SO hard reading this. It felt eerily similar to my overnight camp experience, except I forced the boy I liked to take a picture with me with my disposable camera the last day of camp. I thought for sure that forcing him to stand next to me would make him realize his love for me and that he had to ask for my address so that he could write me long letters. Sadly, that was not the case. I'm with you--I hated it at the time but am now glad I did it if only to look back on the memories and cringe:)

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  5. HA! I love this, I never went to camp but it sounds like something Id like to send my kids to LOL

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  6. I always wanted this experience when I was little... I only went to church camp in high school, I was of course the naughty one that snuck out at night to make out with a boy down by the river! Thinking back that was probably dangerous, we could have been eaten by bears or something haha (the camp was in CO).

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  7. I'm jealous. I always begged my parents to send me to camp since I was obsessed with Bug Juice. But with my awkwardness and separation anxiety, I think they knew it would be a waste of money. They're smarter than I was, but I was still pissed!

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  8. I always thought camp would be like bug juice... Sadly the only camp I went to was Girl Scout camp which apparently frowned upon boys attending. And even there I didn't find my long lost British twin. Which was really unfortunate because I could've really used an adventure around that time.

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  9. my parents would only send me to church summer camps...nothing like waking up at 7 am to have "quiet time" with out bibles. or having to wear a white tshirt over our one piece-swimsuits even when it was an all girls camp. man, i can't wait to do that to my poor kids. ;)

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  10. I went to camp every summer since I was in 3rd grade all the way through high school. I loved it! Of course it was a "church camp" so there was lots of prayer circles and Bible studies...but it was fun. I made friends that I'm still in contact with to this day. I'm definitely sending my future kid to camp.

    xo Denise
    lovelybohemian.blogspot.com

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  11. I've got a good camp story sitting in the drafts and I think it needs to come to light especially since it involves my first experience with full frontal nudity.

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  12. I've never been to camp, but I know if I did then I would too be in cabin hakowie haha.

    guesswhathollie.blogspot.co.uk

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  13. And now I've just spend 15 minutes watching Bug Juice videos on youtube!

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  14. I never got to go to camp...I always assumed it was something that was created for television/movies and didn't exist in real life. So yeah, a little bummed out I didn't get to experience a real life camp...and a little jealous. haha

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  15. haha I started to cringe as I read about the weirdo cabin chanting for back rubs, I just knew what was going to happen next. Actually I take that back, I did not see the lunch ladies coming over.. haha you always have the best stories!

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  16. I never really went to camp trips. All I had were family gatherings and they were fun. I want to plan some camping for my college and believe me, I'd rather staying at weird girls group. No boys drama.

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  17. I love Bug Juice. Many of my teen years were spent watching marathons on Disney. All the cool guys growing up wore puka necklaces. I wonder what the cool boys wear now...

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  18. hahahaha omg a memory I pushed way back to "almost forgotten" just sprung up while reading this! At Girl Scout camp when I was 12 there was a camp fire drill. Too bad the fire drill occurred when I was in the shower after swimming (also in a Nike one piece!). The horrid counselors would not let me finish my shower OR get dressed, so I had to walk out for the drill in a towel! A small towel, at that! (I need to remember to yell at my Mom for that one)! There was no fire, either. I tried to hide since the boy camp was walking over toward us but couldn't find cover. They got a lesson in female anatomy that day and I have bought over-sized towels ever since. *Shudder* oh memories... lol

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  19. So funny! I almost wish you could of grown up Morman to hear your recant of "Pioneer Trek". You get to pretend to be a pioneer for 5 dys.... pulling a handcart until 3:00 am and all. I some how survived.

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