Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mosquitos, state bird of Michigan

As I was preparing for my son's first sleep away camp experience with the boy scouts, one item leapt out at me and triggered a now humorous memory from my childhood.  That item was "mosquito netting" and here's the tale.

I am a third generation girl scout, and camp is an integral part of that experience.  As soon as I was old enough, I wanted to go.  My mom, a single parent with no help from my dad, scraped together the money all year long, probably relishing the week of peace and quiet.  Luckily for her, I LOVED camp.  Loved, with all capital letters. 

When I first attended camp, we lived in NW Indiana.  I went for probably three years in succession to camps in Wisconsin before we moved with my grandparents to Chicago so my mom could finish her degree.  Back then, that meant changing Girl Scout councils and attending a different camp in the summer.  The new camp was in Michigan.  Mosquito netting was an item listed on the supply list for this camp. 

As a single parent with little income, my mom often had to make instant decisions between "needs" and "wants" in a cruel, definitive, cut it off at the knees kind of way, because not everything could be afforded.  She determined mosquito netting was not a need, because here I was an old hand at camp, and I'd never needed mosquito netting before.  Off to camp I went, sans netting.

At camp in the 70s, there really weren't any mirrors.  There were vague tinny things in the bathroom area that let you know you were looking into them, and you knew you were a female since you were at girl scout camp, but any other details weren't readily apparent.  I loved camp so much, it really wasn't until bedtime that I'd itch.  And itch.  But I was exhausted, so I fell asleep quickly, despite the itching.  It wasn't until a rainy day when we were confined to our platform tents that I truly realized I was serving as a mosquito buffet during my sleeping hours.  My camp mates counted somewhere over 200 mosquito bites on me.  This was the day before we left for home.

My mom told me before I left that as a special treat, she'd pick me up off the bus, and we'd go out to dinner so I could tell her all about camp.  When I stepped off the bus, I noticed my mom had the oddest look on her face.  I know now, it was a mix of horror at what I looked like and shame that she'd caused my lumpy looks by eschewing the mosquito netting.  She asked me at least ten times if I still wanted to go out for dinner.  Sure!  I wanted non-camp food!  It wasn't until I went to the bathroom and looked in a REAL mirror I realized I looked like a leper.  Oh, well, I was already there, might as well stay.  I did notice they seated us in an out of the way, poorly lit booth.  I wonder how many people I scared that day.

The REALLY funny part is, when I saw "mosquito netting" on the list, for a split second, I wondered if that was a truly necessary item.  Yes, I've become my mother. 

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