The first time I went to summer camp, I was ten and it was girl scout camp. I remember my mom and dad leaving me standing in the doorway of the cabin. I watched them drive off. “I’ll write!” I called after them. I turned around, put the sheets on my cabin bed, and tried not to let the other girls see me cry. I was already homesick! However, it didn’t take long before the fun started! You know, the camp fun. Singing in the mess hall, learning to canoe, swimming, telling ghost stories at the campfire, and writing home. I am not sure what new badges I earned, but I know there were several! By the time camp was over, I didn’t want to go home! The absolute worst part was being stung in the cabin by a wasp. One was bad. Then I was stung again. When I went to bed that night, one of the other camper girls leaned over my bed and said, “If you get stung again, you die!” I didn’t tell the counselor at first, but finally I had to tell her because I was so worried about dying that night. She was kind. She didn’t laugh, but she told me that was not true and she would keep an eye on me all night. I didn’t get stung again. I didn’t die that night so I never did find out if that was true.
Going to college was a bit like going back to camp. I packed up all my things, and headed to school with my parents. It was deja vu all over again watching my parents leave, turning around unpacking and making my bed. I even wrote home…not every day, but often!
This past week, it all came back to me as I packed to go to Ukulele (and Harmonica) Camp this week at Manchester College. Carolyn and I sent in our registration weeks ago, and I put the date on the calendar. This past month with the Littles visiting, I didn’t pay much attention to that calendar. Once they left, I dusted off my planner and there it was in bold writing, Ukulele Camp. I was committed. I paid the fees, and I packed my bag. We decided to buy the linens for $12.50. “Wouldn’t that be easier?” we both thought.
We loaded up Carolyn’s van, waved farewell to Elten as he hollered after us, “Have fun at camp!” We chatted all the way to Manchester College and soon found ourselves at the registration table. We got our room keys, and our name tags. Mine said, “Ukulnannie.” What was I thinking when I put that down? I guess I was in Nannie mode. With our keys in our pocket, we checked into our dorm room. The room looked no different than the one I checked into years ago. I just stood there looking at the bare room with our bags of linens tossed on the beds. We did, however, have our own bathroom shared with two other suite mates. We opened up our linen bags to find pieces missing, but a quick call down to the desk, and the other linens promptly appeared. The sheets were two flat thin sheets, and I know, I KNOW, these were the same threadbare sheets that were delivered to my dorm room many years ago! I had forgotten. Nothing tucked in! When I woke up each morning, all the sheets were in a huge round bundle in the middle of the bed! But, I came to camp to play the ukulele, and play we did…from morning until night.
The three-day camp did not leave time to even write home! The days were filled with classes and the evenings were concerts by some of the best uke and harmonica players in the world; I think I can safely say that. We took notes, made friends, ate in the cafeteria, and shared stories. There was no canoeing or backpacking down the streets of Manchester, but the songs and the music carried us around the world. We took classes on every genre of music.
Today is our last day. We have to say farewell to new and old friends, just like camp. We have to bundle our linens and place them in the hall and turn in our room keys, just like camp. We have to say, “See you next time at camp.” And the packed car will turn northward.
Yes, Virginia, camp is for everyone…even grown-ups!