Friday, January 05, 2007

Two for One Flashback Friday: Summer Camp

Not sure what happened to that blogging hiatus I mentioned a few days back...

One summer, when I was around 11 or 12, I persuaded my parents to send me to a riding camp for two weeks, with my horse. It was fantastic. I rode twice a day, and was taught by an excellent coach. I think my riding improved immensely, and my horse enjoyed the change of scenery.

The next summer, I convinced my parents to send us for a whole month. This was considerably less fantastic. It was the summer when all my peers were talking about getting their first period. I remember I looked in my underwear a lot because I sort of wanted to join the club, but my heart really wasn't in it. I really had no interest in becoming a woman. My mom had to force me to wear a bra. And when I finally did get my period, I counted how many years, approximately, I'd have to wait until menopause would release me. But that didn't happen at camp.

During each two-week session, the counsellors would get one night off to do whatever they pleased, leaving a skeleton staff to man the camp. The campers were collected in the dining hall and we spent the evening watching movies. I remember the first summer I was there, my counsellor didn't come back until 7 the next morning, and she flopped on her bed with her bra in her hand. I was too young to be scandalized.

The second summer, when we were collected in the dining hall, all ready to watch Dirty Dancing, or something like that, one of the younger campers was crying. Her name was Crystal, which I later learned was frighteningly apt, and she was only six years old. Her parents sent her to camp for the whole summer, and she'd spent the whole previous summer there too. I think her parents were high-powered executives in Toronto, and it always made me sad that she spent so long, so far away from home, at such a young age. Anyways, that night she felt certain that someone was going to die. She pleaded with her counsellor not to go out, because she was terrified someone was going to die. She was so adamant, she scared all her cabinmates, and the fear swept through the rest of us.

I remember being one of the relatively older campers, and therefore somewhat responsible when we couldn't find any counsellors or adults around. We didn't know what to do, how to settle the scared campers, so we went to the big house where the owner lived with her family. We knocked on the door and no one answered. We could see a light on upstairs and we tried to throw rocks at the window, but still no one came to our rescue.

I remember phoning my parents, crying because I didn't know what to do. But they were out at a movie, and just the answering machine came on. I think I left messages.

I guess someone eventually came, and settled us, and we went to bed. The next morning, the camp owner came around to us in small groups to tell us the news. There had been a car accident the night before, involving the counsellors' car. The adults had been at the hospital when we couldn't find them the night before. Apparently, a boyfriend of one of the counsellors was driving, and tried to pass on a hill, colliding head-on with an oncoming car.

Crystal's counsellor was dead.

Another was head injured and remained in a coma for three months. Last I heard, she'd gone to a special rehabilitation centre in the states, but I don't know if she ever recovered. A third broke her neck, but I think she was going to be ok eventually. I think a fourth came out with cuts and bruises.

So Crystal was right.

I don't remember much of the rest of my time there, except that my horse didn't get outside enough and she went sour; my teacher was young and inexperienced and didn't teach me much. Shortly after the accident, we had an outing to the general store in the tiny village nearby. The camp had its own small bus, and we rode it to the village. I remember seeing snaky black tire tracks on the road, and wondering if that was the hill. I still don't know. I never went back to that camp.

Years later, I met the daughter of the camp's owner at university. She had a car, so she gave me rides home on holidays a few times. Turns out, she was my counsellor that year, which I'd completely forgotten. In fact, I'd blocked out a lot of details, or merged them with the year before. Discovering the huge black gaps in my memory made me realize just how traumatic this experience was. I still think about little Crystal, a fellow redhead, and wonder what has become of her.

The Flashback Friday: Feminist Edition will feature a story that has something to do with being or becoming a woman or feminist. This series will continue until I run out of stories. I love having guest bloggers. If you have a story you want to tell and you want to be a guest blogger here, please email me; or feel free to link to your own story in the comments. Thanks to Sunshine Scribe for the Flashback Friday idea.


bubandpie said...

This story gives me chills. A friend of mine had a sister who died in a head-on collision while she was a camp counsellor. I don't think it could have been the same one, though the circumstances sound eerily similar. It would have been around 1989 or so.

Beck said...

You know what really was spooky for me, reading this? Thinking about your parents getting back from the movie, hearing your freaked out messages. What a haunting story!

Beck said...
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mamatulip said...


Mad Hatter said...

Have you read Beth Goobie's Before Wings. It is one of the best Canadian YA novels out there. Death, camp, and the ghosts that haunt us are all themes.

ewe are here said...

Freaky. Poor little Crystal. And what your parents must have thought when they got your messages!

Mommy-Like Days said...

Sounds like it was my friend who died in that accident--B&P filled me in on a few details. Strange--that it could all be so immediate again, that it came back through the blogosphere. But how cool--another thread to the story.

cinnamon gurl said...

Beck, I seem to remember my mom telling me, probably when I started getting rides home from the daughter of the owner, that she felt horribly, hugely guilty that they were away when I needed them. Now that I'm a mother too, I can imagine and understand just how huge the feeling was for her.

Mommy-like days, welcome. I feel weird that she was your friend; I worry that I have reduced her to the subject of a freaky anecdote. I didn't really know her, but I remember that Crystal was really fond of her. My sympathies to you and her other loved ones.

Nancy said...

Wow. I wonder what happened to poor Crystal -- I'm not sure that's an ability I'd like to have.

Fetsiboomsticks said...
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