I was a reluctant Girl Scout. Brownies had been okay. I liked my fun Brownie leader and we did interesting crafts. Cookies were served. I would do anything for a couple of chocolate chip cookies.
When I moved up to Girl Scouts, we went to Newark Department Store to buy the uniform. Newark Department Store was a fixture in my town. It had pneumatic tubes that whisked money filled canisters from the store clerk to some mystery destination apparently in the ceiling. Today’s drive through banks have the same sort of set-up, but not nearly as interesting and futuristic.
Once, at the Department Store I wandered to the back hall where outside the ladies room was a coke machine. I played with the lever for a bit, imagining how grand it would be to have enough money to buy a coke. At that very moment, a female clerk exited the ladies room, pulled a dime from her handbag, cranked the lever, opened the long glass door and pulled out a frosty bottle. She uncapped that coke and to my amazement, she handed it to me saying, “Enjoy!” Even at five years old I was learning to manifest what I wanted! I dreamed of a coke, and a coke appeared. Magic.
Newark Department Store had two floors. The first floor was clothing for the entire family, shoes, and jewelry. There was an escalator to the lower level. The lower level had books, housewares, bath towels, gift items, a “canning” area where you could creatively have a gift packaged in a paint can wrapped with bright paper.
The Girl Scout Department was down there. I was thrilled to buy my beret, green uniform, scout socks, and the sash onto which I would sew the many badges I’d get. What I didn’t know is you didn’t just “get” badges. You actually had to earn them. This required working your way through a handbook and doing different tasks. I loathed tasks. Happily, my older over-achieving sister, Marilyn, had a sash teaming with badges. I simply wore her sash to meetings. In retrospect, I imagine my Scout leader knew I was a fraud.
The summer after fourth grade my sister and I went to Grove Point Girl Scout Camp. Marilyn is four years older than I, so she was in a different area of the campground. Each section had a name—Osprey, Sassafras, Pineview. The “housing” was tents on platforms. We hung mosquito netting over our cots.
Bathrooms were outhouses. We were to sprinkle lime through the hole after each “big potty.” They smelled vile and I avoided them as much as possible.
Meals were taken in a large dining room. There was NO cream cheese. Since I was three years old I had steadfastly refused to eat anything other than cream cheese on bread, possibly punctuated with cookies or ice cream. My cream cheese addiction will be an entire future post.
Swimming took place in a brown lake. I couldn’t see the bottom. It felt slimy and mucky, oozing between to my bare toes.
I was NOT a happy camper.
All of the camp counselors had fake names. Days of the week, months of the year, tree monikers. Sycamore was one, July another. I became more miserable and homesick by the day. I finally complained to our counselor, Hippity Hop or some such thing, that I was ill. She had a more experienced camper help me find the camp hospital.
The hospital nurse’s alias was Sunday. A portly woman in white dress and funny hat, she looked me over, took my temperature, peered in my ears and throat, then asked, “Are you homesick?” Embarrassed to admit it, I lied. “Well, then, I suppose you need an enema.”
I had no idea what an enema was. When she had me drop my underwear I quickly realized it couldn’t be a good thing. She inserted the hose and filled me with warm water. I spent the better part of the afternoon crying while draining the contents of my colon into the porcelain bowl. (Thankfully I didn’t have to use a wretched latrine.)
When at long last I was able to put on my shorts and leave the bathroom sniffling, I found Sunday alone in her office. Hiccuping the miserable hiccups that follow a good long cry I whimpered, “Sunday, I am so homesick.”
Sunday shook her head, sighed heavily and stated, “If you’d told me so in the first place you could have avoided the enema.”
If you are ever asked the “homesick” question, resist the urge to lie. Sunday may still be at large, red enema bag and hose in hand, ready to pounce.