Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Camp Wyman and Little Big Mouth
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.