Tuesday, August 21, 2012

an encore and then curtain calls

During the summer of 1957, I spent two weeks at a 4-H camp on Long Island. It was almost the two most miserable weeks of my life. I was more than homesick. I was so unhappy, I think I became catatonic. And what made it so terrible is that I was allowed to remain so upset and fall into a condition which is clearly visible in this photo. When my parents visited me after the first week, they were appalled at how I looked. I had lost a great deal of weight and for some reason my hair was cut so short. And I stunk. Somebody had neglected to show me where the showers were. I had not eaten and my parents brought me chocolate milk that was so good that when I close my eyes today I can still taste the gooey rich sweetness. And they fed me the first meal I was able to eat in almost five days.
The camp provided good meals. But, I had lost my apetite. The first dinner there was Swedish meatballs, and I can still recall biting into one of those meatballs and pulling out a long piece of hair from my mouth. Then when we had a night picnic, some counselor loaded up my paper plate with fried chicken and corn and the weight of it made me drop it and after they all laughed, nobody gave me a refill.
For some reason, all the other girls went to activities in the afternoons. They even went swimming. I had not signed up for anything so I was left alone in the cabin to cry. I mean sob. I wrote my mother a letter and ordered her to pick me up and get me the hell out of there. Then, a few hours after I put it in the mailbox, I trekked down the hill to retrieve it. I didn't want to upset my mother. But, when my parents visited, the sight of me upset them plenty.
I recall waking up early one morning and I was sharing my bed with a grasshopper. The girl next to me laughed. The girls had short-sheeted my bed the night before and I guess the grasshopper was the prank's dessert. Look at this picture. My sister puts on a cheerful face. Sure, she was not attending that camp.
I was never skinny in my whole life. The camp was able to bring on my skinny. My parents asked me if I wanted to go home with them. I was not a quitter. So, I stayed. I should have been diagnosed as a masochist and sent home in an ambulance.
I think as I walk around today, the unhappiness of those two weeks still lives in a small corner of my mind and brings me to dark places for which I can never quite pinpoint a reason.

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