Not-so-happy camper

My 15-year-old self’s letter home from camp

I’ve never been the outdoors type. To me, “ r o u g h i n g it” equates to having to wait an extra 10 seconds for the On Demand selection to load on my television.

The one time I did try to enjoy the great outdoors was when my parents sent me to a summer camp in the Laurel Highlands when I was 15 years old. (In a few paragraphs, it will become clear why I’m not naming the camp.) It was the first time in my life I was on my own for an extended period of time, away from the safety of my parents and bedroom.

There was swimming, crafts and bonfires but these aren’t the moments that stand out years later. I mostly remember not being able to sleep in my bunk bed because of constant noise from my bunkmates; iced tea in the mess hall which needed a few gallons of sugar before it could be consumed; and a bout of food poisoning that afflicted many campers and forced an early end to the week. I had never been so happy to see my parents drive up in our old station wagon to meet me.

Inside one of my mom’s many photo albums, she has kept a letter I penned from camp. It offers a clear idea of my 15-year-old state of mind at the time: “The food (now I know why they call it mess hall) totally stinks and is garbadge (sic)” “The first night here was a nightmare. I only got two hours of sleep between everyone sneaking out the windows to go everywhere and shaving cream battles”

The tale of my camp experience recently surfaced here at the Chancery and I was surprised to find out one of my colleagues, Teresa Sekel, was a counselor at the same camp.

Besides my brother, I’ve never known anyone who has firsthand knowledge of that week so many years ago. I was certainly taken aback when I started to tell Teresa about the week and how all the campers were sent home early because of… “Food poisoning!” she finished my sentence.

At least experiences such as this make great stories all these years later. I haven’t gone camping since then but maybe one day I’ll give it another try. Until then…where did I put the remote control?