July began with my departure for an overnight English summer camp where I was to teach English to a group of eleven 11-year old girls. Before I get into those adventures, let’s back up a little first.
My earliest memory of camp is at Lincolnwood Day Camp seeking shade under a tree at Proesel Park with my group on a hot summer day and singing “Little Bunny Foo Foo.” My next camp memories take me to Banner and singing songs at the end of the day and having Nerf-like plastic baseballs and footballs with ugly faces in them thrown to the crowd of campers for prizes – What were those balls called?! Their grilled cheese sandwiches were equal parts soggy and greasy and yet somehow that equaled delicious perfection. For some later summers I went to tennis camp where I recall the giant containers of water-downed Gatorade and countless games of King of the Court. And then it was time for overnight camp . . .
My first overnight camp took me to OSRUI (Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute) a perfectly fine camp, just not for me. Campers slept on bunk beds with their groups under gigantic tents, went to the bathroom in Port-a-Potties, brushed teeth in some kind of trough/well and took showers as a group at some indoor facility. Just to clarify – this was not for me and neither was the sitting around the campfire singing songs. It wasn’t just that, but also the fact that I suffered from horrendous homesickness, writing letters home that I hope have disappeared because the sappiness of them would be too embarrassing for me to endure should someone find them.
Sometime in between that summer and the next, my parents must have plotted to find the perfect camp for me – as my mom grew up loving camp and my brother and sister had ideal camp experiences, I imagine that they just wanted the same for me. Over that winter, my parents hosted a presentation from Lake of the Woods camp. Dad, if you’re reading this, I apologize, as I know you’re not so fond of the following story, but just know that twenty-fourish years later I’m completely healed from the trauma – I mean, experience. So there I sat during the presentation thinking to myself how nice the cabins looked and that the connected bathrooms were just what campers should have and the variety of activities (archery, riflery, gymnastics and tennis) would be so much fun for campers – just not for me, as I was ready to tell my parents once the guy left, that I was not going to overnight camp . . . but as soon as the presentation ended and the lights were back on, my dad got up from his chair, walked up to the guy, shook his hand and said, “We’ll see you this summer.”
Fast forward to 8:30 in the morning, July 2, 2012, Barcelona, Spain with campers standing around with their parents, waiting to load the coach buses that would take them to Cerler for their English camp in the Spanish Pyrenees Mountains. One girl stood out to me because she looked so utterly miserable, like she was headed towards a military boot camp. At the rest stop a couple hours later she got in line behind the other campers on her bus, but being thirteen-years old, she towered over the tiny eight-year olds at the back of the line. So I took Claudia by the hand and beamed with joy (imagining how grateful I would have been for a counselor to facilitate this for me when I was a kid) as I had the girls her age at the front of the line to introduce themselves to her and to me. During camp, Claudia and those girls became good friends and by the end of camp you would have never known that they had just met two weeks before.