Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Camp Wyman and Little Big Mouth



The first day of summer is a big deal to me because it was also my late mom's birthday. My daughter used to say that my mom reminded her of Sophia, (Estelle Getty), the little grandma on The Golden Girls. Mom was outspoken, fun, funny, caring, and did I say outspoken?


Mom had four sisters, a brother and a rough time as a child. She was flighty, fidgety, had no mouth filter and a "one track mind" according to her parents who thought she was difficult to handle. Having witnessed my mom flit from subject to subject and pace constantly, and her inability to complete a sentence, I recognize the signs for what we now refer to as ADHD, attention deficit hyper activity disorder. Life wasn't easy for her or her parents during the Great Depression. But one positive experience of her young life was so significant she talked about it all the time: Camp Wyman, a summer camp for underpriviliged city children. Those two weeks of her seventh summer were so significant and such a positive experience.

In 1997, I'd read about the upcoming Centennial Anniversary of Camp Wyman. The facility was open to the public for a huge celebration on that weekend. I surprised my mom and stepdad with a drive to Eureka, near Six Flags where Camp Wyman is located. She was mouthy about not wanting to go to Six Flags. Due to construction, I had to take a detour down a two lane country road. She could not figure out where I was taking her. She saw a sign advertising Camp Wyman and said, "Oh, I went there when I was a child." And she began reminiscing about her experiences.

I parked the car near the back of a bank of cabins on a hill and said, "I think I'm lost. Let's see where we are."

My mom nearly fainted with excitement when she realized that she was standing in front of the cabin she'd stayed in as a little girl. She walked inside, and suddenly all of the stories she had told repetitivley over the years came alive for both of us. She was seven again pointing out this and that.

We walked to the main lodge where they had all sorts of memorabilia on display. My lively, little 67 year old mom was in her glory. She didn't find any photos of herself, but she did recognize some of her friends. And then, a gentleman in charge greeted us. When I told him that my mom had attended Camp Wyman he wanted to interview her. She was thrilled. She fluffed her graying curls and raised her head higher than I'd ever seen it, and beamed a smile that could have lit up the night.

He took our family into a room and told her to sit in a comfy arm chair. I sat on the arm, and then he turned on a video cam and said, "Virginia, tell us all about your adventure here. Just talk naturally into the camera."

I rolled my eyes. Oh crap! Our Little Golden Girl was about to let it spew. I knew those stories by heart.

"Well you see, those two weeks of my young life were the most memorable. I got to get away from home and have fun. I remember Mrs. ___.  She was big and matronly and mean. She wasn't very nice to kids. She called me Miss Pee-Pee because I wet the bed every night, and she made me walk the plank, that area between the cabins..."

"Mom, no! Tell a good memory."

The man said, "Let her talk. We want candid accounts of former campers' experiences."

And talk she did. She shared her fondest memories of eating in a mess hall, doing arts and crafts, and swimming in the biggest pool she'd ever seen. She spilled her guts about the good, the bad, and the ugly. While the gentleman laughed, and I cringed, the camera rolled. My contorted facial expressions, gasps and forehead slapping (mine, not hers) are on video somewhere in Camp Wyman archives.

On this day, when my mother would have been 82 years old, I put my hands together and applaud her for survivng her own life, giving me mine, my brother his, and for adoring her grandchildren and especially her great-grandchildren. For a job well done, doing the best she could, I send a prayer heavenward. Mom, I hope you are dancing with the angels in heaven today.



16 comments:

Bookie said...

Great post and nice glimpse into your mom. She must have been a fun mom to have!

Susan said...

Awwwww, Linda. That was a sweet post. Your Mummy would LOVE it. You are her greatest legacy, that's for sure.

I hope she has a delightful day on the other side. Susan

Kim said...

How lovely that you gave your mom the opportunity to re-experience the location of her childhood adventures and happiness.

I bet Heaven has the biggest pool yet!

Joanne said...

You are one fabulous sly devil. I know your mom is the star of the vido.

Kathleen said...

I loved reading this post. What a special thing that was to do for your Mom. It sounded like she was a real character.

Val said...

Parents say the darnedest things. How great that your mom got to put her tales on record, after all those years of practice.

Mary said...

I'm sure your mom is dancing with the angels, Linda, and is especially proud of you!

Sioux said...

I saw that face and thought, "I know that person." But of course, I didn't...not in the true sense of the word.

But the sense of recognition came when I realized it was your mom; parts of your mom (physically) really shine through in you. (The "outspoken" part...not so much ;)

Carol said...

What a great story! Linda, you sure have a wonderful way with words.

Lynn said...

Linda, my husband, his mother and grandmother all went to Camp Wyman! Small world. I think Norm's mom had to be around your mother's birthday. I'll be sure to ask Norm. Great post.

Karen Lange said...

What a nice tribute to your Mom! I like that, "she had no mouth filter". I know a few people like that. :)

Thanks for sharing!

Tammy said...

What a fun memory. Happy belated birthday to your mom! How fitting that she had a midsummer night birthday. I hope she frolics with angels and pixies, both....

K9friend said...

What a cool experience for both you and your mom...now a wonderful memory.

Pat
Critter Alley

sparkle100-havealook.blogspot.com said...

I enjoyed that. Alot of laughs. My daughter knows me well. I can see some similarties in your Mom and I. Daughters always want to cover things with the icing as what Mom should say in public. Now your Mom is in Heaven. I bet she is bursting at the seams. Telling the angels everything.
My daughter if she could would love to program me what to say in public. We are who we are. Your Mom was who she was. Right to the core of her heart. Bless her. Just like that person said to you interviewing her . Let her go forth. I wouldn't be surprise if your Mom is singing in the choir in Heaven along with my Father in-law every Sunday.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

She sounds like a spunky lady. I'm glad you have such wonderful memories of your Mom.

Judy SheldonWalker said...

God bless her and I bet she is!!