Smells Like Camp Spirit

My earliest memories are set in North East, Maryland, where my dad worked at a riverside conference center called Sandy Cove.  We lived in staff housing briefly while our own house was being built, so we often ended up walking down the road to the main hotel building and joining dad for dinner in the big dining room.

Meals were buffet-style and afforded me a singular opportunity to be an individual and make my own decisions based on my own convictions.  Two guiding principles in my life circa 1993 were A) that shrimp were reprehensible and should only be considered for consumption if breaded and fried; and B) that croutons were the only reason to spend any time on the salad bar.  So I would typically arrive at the dinner table with a plate of shrimp, proceed to eat all the fried breading off of them, and then shove the offensively fleshy pink curls off onto a greedy sibling.  Next I would move on to my bowl of croutons.  Just croutons.  In a bowl.  Maybe some bacon bits too, but mostly croutons.  Having enjoyed Carbohydrates Two Ways, it was time for dairy.  I made my way to the dessert station and carefully selected the eclair with the best chocolate-to-pastry ratio.

(I have never been a very competitive person, but in the area of Early Cellulite Reserve Accrual I was a stealthy overachiever and you all have a lot of catching up to do.)

At some point during dessert my dad, the hotel's front desk manager, would make his way to the microphone at one side of the dining room to give any announcements.  As he tapped a spoon against his glass to get everyone's attention, the entire room fell silent.  People turned their chairs to get a better view of Mister Microphone.  Fathers paused their tales of the afternoon's shuffleboard victories.  Mothers hushed their children's pleas for more chocolate milk.  Wait staff stood at attention.  Everyone knew that they were about to hear announcements peppered with the finest puns on any Chesapeake estuary, and they wouldn't miss a word of it for any amount of chocolate milk.  My father was a celebrity, and I loved being related to a celebrity.  Despite my "hand-me-down chic" sartorial sense and my haphazardly-selected eyewear, why yes, I was Chuck Heidel's daughter and how nice of you to ask!  It's too bad that we hadn't discovered reality television yet because if we had, I probably could have paid off my student loans by now with royalties from "Real Homeschoolers of Cecil County" seasons 1-6.

One summer I befriended a girl whose family was attending a conference at Sandy Cove but was staying on the campgrounds rather than in the hotel building.  She took me to see her family's camping trailer one day and I felt as though I had befriended a band of gypsies...Here was a family staying in the woods because they wanted to!  Chalk my incredulity up to being a very fearful child who assumed that camping involved exposure to bears, and thus should not be attempted.  (No one had discovered glamping yet so I didn't know that bear-free camping was an option.)

Smells Like Camp Spirit
Sometimes we enrolled in the day program for kids of parents attending conferences.  The program was called Club Cove and divided kids up by age groups.  We assembled each morning in one of eight or so classrooms along a basement hallway that had a distinctive smell - not good or bad, but something uncomfortably in the middle.  I've sometimes wondered if renovations over the years have somehow cured the basement of its odor, but am happy to report that I visited today and the hallway still smells very much like 1993.  No word on the breaded shrimp and crouton supplies, but if any of the staff see a small freckled girl with very large glasses and a tangled ponytail beelining for the salad bar, I urge them to ensure that she loads up on at least one vegetable.


Auntie Sue said…
Ginny -- methinks your dad must have been very, very busy preparing for his announcements either to have not noticed the bowl with just croutons or to have not made you add something green!

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