My cousin sends her three kids (ages 9-13ish) to a month long summer camp in another state. They stay there. For a month. And do camping things.
When I was 4, my mom put me into a day camp with the intent of making me interact with other humans my age. I expressed zero interest in that idea, but she thought it would be good for me, so off we went. The day camp was at the same school that I would eventually attend, and my brother was already attending, so I knew how to get there and back because it was within walking distance. When we arrived, my mom handed me over to a bunch of teenagers who were supposed to look after my well being. She knew I’d spazz or freak, so instead of leaving, she sat outside for 20 minutes, and then went back in to see how things were going. I wasn’t there. She asked the teenagers where I was, and they looked around and said they didn’t know. In retrospect, we probably should have sued one of the teenagers for losing me. Anyway, my mom ran out the front door and down the street and there I was, walking home. She said I decided I didn’t want to be there, so I left. And the security was so good, no one missed me! Can you imagine if that happened now? They probably have ankle bracelets on every kid so they can’t go too far without an alarm going off.
My next experience with camp was very similar. My mom thought I needed to be with humans my age again (this time I was about 10)…well, not just humans my age, but people of the same gender as me…so she put me in Brownies. The weekly meetings were horrible and consisted of older girls pushing the younger girls. I just remember sitting in the corner of the Aurora Shores Clubhouse and rocking. I’m sure I got shoved, too, but I don’t remember that. It’s possible they just avoided me. Then I was sent to the wilderness to prove my worth as a Brownie and bond further with my Brownie mates. It’s safe to say that I probably never earned any badges to show that I was worthy of existing in the wilderness, but they sent me anyway. In Suburbia, apparently “camping” means staying in a really large, empty feeling lodge type thing with lofts on either side of the one giant room, and you had to climb up what I remember to be a 30 foot tall ladder to get to the loft. It probably was not 30 feet tall. I remember not peeing because the only option was outdoor plumbing (an outhouse), and I vaguely remember a fire and tin cans. I’m afraid of fire and hot things, so that didn’t go over well. Plus, I really had to pee at that point. Then it came time for the “talent show”. This was possibly one of the most traumatizing events of my youth. I was not only sheltered in terms of what my parents let me do or watch or listen to, but I personally sheltered myself from most things anyway. So craziness like Madonna or Dirty Dancing or The Golden Girls were WAY beyond my maturity level. I watched from my perch in the loft as girls in their bras and underwear (I was 10, I was still too embarrassed to say the word bra, let alone look at one), dancing and lip syncing to “Like a Virgin”, which I had never heard. I was scandalized. It’s not that I was judging or thinking holier than thou thoughts, I just had NO interest in any of that stuff – being half naked, dancing, Madonna – I still preferred dinosaurs and pretending to be a robot (which, incidentally, I think contributed to my increasing fear of them).
After all the frivolity and fun of “talent show”, we went to our bunks to sleep. All day I was developing worse and worse allergy symptoms, and I still hadn’t peed. So I’m there in my bunk thinking I’m dying. My eyes were puffy and running, my nose was puffy and running, I was coughing and wheezing, and I had so much snot running down the back of my throat, my stomach hurt. And I had to pee. So I did what any rational thinking 10 year old who had never heard Madonna and was scared of bras would do – I burst out crying and rocking. This alarmed my Brownie mates who went and got the Head Brownie Chief, who took me down the 30 foot ladder and told me I’d be fine. When I was clearly not fine, she called my parents in the middle of the night and they had to drive out to the middle of nowhere to pick my sorry ass up.
So yeah, I have a total of about 14 hours of camping experience in my 35 years of life. Oh wait! One time I decided I wanted a tent for Christmas or my birthday or something, so we got a tent and put it up in our backyard. I sat in it for several hours (actually, with a bunch of plastic dinosaur figures and a few books) and then left it outside where it got rained on and then started smelling funny and we just threw it out. So maybe I have like, 17 hours of camping experience.