Summer Camp

Back when I was just a pup, we were staunch members of the First Baptist Church of Solvang. Members? Hell, Pastor Fred Harris and his family were our next-door neighbors out on Adobe Canyon Road (now Fredensborg Canyon). I remember our services at Dania Hall before we even had a church building. I remember all the thrones at Dania Hall that were used by the Masons when we weren't in Sunday School and church. And I remember being in the first service held in the new church building in Janin Acres. As long as we went there, we never had pews to sit onour butts had to make do with metal folding chairs. I remember being baptized in the swimming pool of another family's home because we didn't even have a baptismal. Sweet Jesus and chlorine!...

I think I was 10, or about to turn 10, when our church learned about a summer camp that was going to be held in... where the hell was it? Near Arroyo Grande? I don't remember. Like a lot of kids who are sent off to summer camp, I thought it would be great fun and I begged my parents to let me go. I thought I'd be with my best friend, Cathy (also one of our pastor's daughters and still a friend of mine today) and I would be inseparable. I thought it would be fun.

Wrong. Cathy was put in another dorm group and I was in one with girls I didn't know. Girls who were prettier, girls who were smarter, girls who were older. I took a top bunk in a corner and made a hiding place for myself, with a picture of my dog set on an open beam in the wall. I was pretty much ignored and I hadn't yet learned how to be myself and win people over with my sparkling personality... A-hem.

There were no shower doors and the bathroom was something out of a concentration camp: toilets set 2 feet apart, with no walls or privacy dividers between them. As a girl who was nearing the end of 11 years of sexual abuse, this was traumatic for me, and I held my pee and poop all day until I could steal away to do my business in private while everyone else was at dinner or at the campfire, or asleep. I still have toilet privacy nightmares.

But I learned valuable things at camp: I learned how to get out of swimming (because I had a severe case of hydrophobia due to having nearly drowned when I was two, how to control my bladder, how to make pencil holders out of popsicle sticks, and how to like cream soda. There was a little store that sold cream soda and Abba-Zabas, and I drowned my heart-wrenching homesickness with them. To this day, cream soda has a calming effect on me. The other thing I learned was a song that has stayed with me:

Two old ladies dressed in black,
Tried to get to Heaven in a Cadillac;
The bottom fell out and down they fell,
One went to Heaven and one went to...
—Don't get excited, folks, we won't say it—
One went to Heaven and one went to bed!

God, the things kids remember. That experience taught me one thing: homesickness is the worst thing a kid can feel.

Do you have a memory of being homesick?