Wednesday, August 08, 2012

A Distant Memory

When I was six, my parents sent me to Cliffside summer camp run by Union Carbide for the children of employees. I had never been away from home before and I was so homesick that I cried myself to sleep every night. That is, when I could have enough quiet and stillness to get to sleep. I had an impediment to that, in the name of Jeanette B. 

Jeanette had the bottom bunk and I was unlucky enough to get the top bunk. She was a mean-spirited little kid and every night, just as I was about to go to sleep, she would raise her legs up and kick the springs on my bunk and wake me. She kicked me so hard I was really afraid I'd fall off the bed, so I clung to the side closest to the wall and hoped she'd soon tire of the game. 

Don't ask me why I didn't wallop the crap out of her. I should have, but I was not a fighter, and all I could do was tearfully ask her why she picked on me. She just laughed. I was the perfect pawn for her mean ways. 

At the end of the first week our parents came to visiting day, and when mine arrived, I cried buckets of tears and begged them to take me home. I don't remember if I told them why, and I also don't remember if I ever told the counselor about Jeanette, but I should have. I know my mom and dad were thinking of the money they had paid for the camp (although minimal) that they'd never get back. I gave them no choice, and they (however reluctantly) took me home with them. I never looked back. 

The following year, I was ready to go back to camp, and luckily I attended every year though age 12 and never had another girl like Jeanette in my cabin. The rest of my camp experiences were fun and rewarding, and taught me many life-lessons. 

This morning, I checked the obituaries in my home town paper, and there was a name I recognized. Jeanette's 97 year old dad passed away, and there in the obit, was her name. At that instant, I became six again, and relived that week of sleepless nights and tears. I suppose she accomplished one thing with all her kicks:  she is the only girl I remember from those camp days so many years ago.

15 comments:

tiff said...

Good on ya for going back!

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Camp can sure be traumatic, depending on your age and other factors like that Bunkmate.
I am amazed that you were able to go back---and how wonderful that it all turned out okay!

Loren said...

Good thing you weren't a teacher or all you'd have is bad memories of your career, Judy.

Somehow I managed to forget all but a very few of those kids who were mean or gave me a bad time. All I really remember are the kids I loved the most.

Betty said...

My parents sent me to Camp Joyzelle for 6 weeks when I was twelve. I hated it. But, I wasn't homesick, strangely enough. Wonder what that means.

Anonymous said...

Even Jeanette taught you a lesson in life - even if it was not done pleasantly.

Me? I'm an equal opportunity forgetter - good, bad, indifferent. I liked a badge that a co-worker on a disaster wore which said, "I don't remember your name, either. Hi, I'm Jeanette!"
Cop Car

Gilly said...

The UK has never had the tradition of summer camps. So I never camped until I went with the Girl Guides. I could go on.........

I don't remember being homesick though, not did we have any little brutes like Jeanette. But now you've put that memory in my mind, I can remember all sorts of things. You've really got me going!

Carmi Levy said...

Memory is an amazing thing. In an instant, it can take you back to moments you thought were gone for good.

Our little man is at camp this month - first time ever. Your memories hit home, Judy. So glad you went back and made even more memories.

sage said...

It is amazing how we are often taken back into the fears of our past... It is good you continued to go to camp!

Grannymar said...

Like Gilly, we never had summer camps in Ireland when I was young. We had enough excitement at home, so I didn't join girl guides or rangers either. My worries were being kicked occidentally on purpose by all the long legs at the other side of the table. Fun times!

Ginnie said...

One thing I've learned is that most of these mean-spirited ones are actually miserable, although they hate to show it. It makes it easier for me to forgive then.

Diana said...

I only went to camp once and it was an amazing experience. (Most summers I spent washing dishes at my dad's restaurant.) But it is amazing how in a moment you can be transported back through memories. I hope jeanette grew out of her mean streak.

LL Cool Joe said...

You did very well to go back! There's always one kid like this, of course really it's normally a sign that they are having major issues at home themselves and take out their pain on others, like poor you.

Pat said...

I think most of us have a Jeanette in our lives at some stage or other. Mine was Doris Giddings.

utenzi said...

Go kick her butt now. It'll be therapeutic. :-)

joared said...

Sorry you had to go through that. Beginning in Jr. Hi('til she found new friends)a family member I learned years later was subjected to a sneaky once-friend frequently instigating other friends in their group to be mean (she was older and could manipulate them.) Many years later the mother volunteered that her daughter (the sneaky one) had been jealous of our family -- her father was alcoholic and family broke up.