When people hear I grew up in the big bad city of New York, and that I ran the streets of Brooklyn, they have a certain image. There have been times I liked that image. I liked to make people think I was tough, or I’d been around the proverbial block. Truth was, I hadn’t. I actually had a very innocent childhood and youth. Even though I managed to fool everyone and riddled myself with guilt, I was blameless.
It was time for camp. Our church had bought a camp “upstate.” Any place with trees that was North of NYC was considered “upstate.” The camp was in the Catskills about 3 hours from Brooklyn. It was a permanent home for Camp Challenge. The main building consisted of dorm type rooms with a large mess. The girls were put on the second floor. The boys were housed on the first floor.
I roomed with a girl named Elaine and another girl whose name I do not know. Neither were Norwegian. Both were connected in some way with our Norwegian church. Elaine didn’t live in our neighborhood either. I remember a birthday party at her house where we listened to the scratchy sounds as the stack of 45’s dropped to the turntable. Unbeknownst to my mother I jiggled my body to “Can’t Buy Me Love” with other giggling girls. Elaine was worldly. So was our other roommate.
It would be the next year that I would have a camp romance. Stay tuned for my first kiss and blush of puppy love. This year, it was all about Jesus and fun. The food was great as it was lovingly cooked by good Norwegians. No bologna salad with mayo. Some mornings we were transported in the bed of a pick-up truck to the pool at the Baptist camp down the road. One year that trip resulted in vomiting campers as a virus from that camp spread to ours. Someone, a sinner no doubt, suggested a little alcohol to settle the stomach. After all, Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake. My mother, always prone to severe vomiting took their advice. One spoonful and up it came-she now had a new badge of honor. The woman who was so proud that alcohol had never touched her lips had been purged of this demon brandy. It was proof, she was pure, she had never been a drinker.
Other times we swam in a pond. I don’t know if we had permission to do so, I just know we climbed over a gate. Pastor Reviness would come with his swimming trunks on covered by a shirt complete with his hat on and shoes and socks. He was a funny sight. Once in the water, he’d shampoo his hair and do his bathing. Back in the truck we’d go for the ride back to camp. Other outings included a trip to a state park. I’d take the trail and walk under waterfalls while others swam in the pristine pool. A trip to Howe Cavern would often be included as part of the summer adventure.
At night, in the dorm room three adolescent girls would chat. I suppose we should have been talking about Jesus or something wholesome. But we were adolescent girls and the topic turned to sex and where babies come from. I remember lying on that bunk listening. Elaine declared that you had to have sex to have a baby. I knew what sex was – well, sort of. I had watched a episode on Dr. Kildare about a teenage pregnancy. My mother had said how horrible that was – I was sure my parents could never had engaged in such horrible activity. I corrected my friend by saying, “NO, Christians don’t have sex. God gives them their babies.” They laughed and corrected me. I maintained my position. “Maybe when Christians kiss something happens and God gives them a baby when they are ready.”
Interesting and laughable now… it wasn’t at the time. Lights out, time to sleep. I wasn't convinced. I got to stay for teen camp since my mother was working the camp. I was an annoying kid who the older teens didn’t want around I guess. One day, left out, I went crying back to my room. Carol, years older than me and always full of poise and beauty came to talk to me. As I cried into the pillow on the upper bunk, she did her best to console me.
I soon stopped crying. She looked at me and said, Joyce, I want to talk to you about something. She and another girl had heard our late night conversation about sex. She told me that she once believed like I did about sex. She told me I was wrong. She said it was really true that you had to have sex to have a baby. She assured me that Christians had sex. I was embarrassed but thankful she set me straight. I’ve never forgot how kind she was that day. I finally knew the facts of life… Like Blaire, Tootie, Natalie and Jo, I learned the Facts of Life upstate NY. How did you learn the facts of life?