Away from Home Alone
I was six years old the first time I went away from home alone. My 11-year-old sister was going to camp and I wanted to go, too. Mind you, my sister wanted little or nothing to do with me, so she wasn’t exactly my security blanket. But I was a pretty gritty and outgoing tyke and I wasn’t worried at all. I don’t remember too much about Camp Pocono, but I had a ball. At the end of the week I called my mom and asked if I could stay another week and she happily agreed. After all, that gave her an additional week’s vacation!
My next camp experience was when I was eight years old. I was gone for eight weeks (this time without my sister) to Camp Kehonka on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. We campers assembled at Grand Central Station in New York, kissed our parents goodbye, and boarded the sleeper train to Wolfeboro, NH. No sooner was I on the train than I met Sissy Lanier and Debby McKown, who became my buddies for the summer.
It was a beautiful spot and there were endless activities in which to participate. I particularly remember going on an overnight horseback ride and sleeping out under the stars. Things had quieted down and everyone was attempting to sleep on rough ground in horribly uncomfortable bedrolls … no fancy sleeping bags back then! I looked up at the starry sky and wondered why someone was shining her flashlight on the sky. I didn’t realize at the time that I was getting my very first view of the northern lights!
Two of my other friends from that summer were Lynn Keefe and Patsy Elliott. We got along so well that the next year they put us in a cabin together. We were a bit mischievous and had a counselor of whom we were not too fond. We made her life so miserable that she asked to be relieved of the opportunity to be our counselor. We were lectured about the fact that we hadn’t been very kind to her and, not being really bad kids, we were chastened. We had no counselor living with us for the rest of the summer, yet we got the award for the best-behaved cabin at the end of summer.
Eight weeks was a long time to be away from home at age eight, and parents were discouraged from visiting. Mail call was a special time and getting a letter from home was a great treat. A care package was even better!
I don’t remember ever being homesick, but I do remember how I looked forward to the arrival of my Mom at the end of August.