When I was a little girl, I dreamed of going away to camp. I practiced tying knots and using a jack knife. I roamed through the woods, imagining I was far away from home, at camp.
When I finally had the chance to go to a day camp, not even an overnight camp, I panicked. I’m embarrassed to admit how old I was, but I’m pretty sure I was the same size as my mother.
I was suddenly terrified at the idea of going someplace (even for a day) where I didn’t know a soul, and I wasn’t familiar with the area.
Now my parents both asked me repeatedly if I was positive I wanted to go, and they made sure I committed before they paid their non-refundable fee. I’m sure I answered testily, snapping their heads at the very idea I might balk. (I may have even been a teenager at this point.)
I balked. Actually, balking would be a euphemism. I freaked out. I tore through the house on the morning my mother was supposed to take me to Camp Glancy. I ran through the house screaming shrilly and slamming doors, ultimately wedging myself securely between the slats under my mattress and the floor. (I have no idea why they were so eager to send me to camp.)
My mother, brother and sister each grabbed a limb and tried to pull me out from under the bed, but I held onto those slats for dear life. Finally mother lay down on the floor, her face mirroring mine, and somehow talked me out from under the bed. She ended up spending the week at Camp Glancy herself, as did my little sister and brother.
Thank goodness my mother somehow got me out from underneath that bed. I fell in love with camp. I adored everything about it, from the smell of the damp, rich earth under the hemlock-lined trails, to the lovely songs we sang around the campfire in the late afternoon, to the smell of sausage frying and biscuits baking in the morning to the singing of taps in the evening.
I went on to attend an actual overnight camp, Camp Adahi. Once again I was absolutely terrified, but loved it so much I called my parents on the very last day of camp and asked if I could stay another session. (I’m sure they would have paid double.)
I went on to work at several camps, and spent my summers in these idyllic settings until I had to get a real job, one without an extended summer vacation. Camp was an important part of my life, one I would have missed if my mother hadn’t gotten me out from under that bed.
All told, I learned about songbirds and native trees and poisonous plants. I learned three chords on the guitar, about shaving my legs and how to respect a forest.
But mostly, I learned that things usually aren’t as terrifying as I make them out to be.
And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.