Summer meant camp, and camp meant a week at a Presbyterian church camp in northeastern Oklahoma.
The camp coincided with my stay at my grandparents who lived a couple of hours from the former American Indian school site tucked in the woods between small and barely thriving towns.
I saved money throughout the year to pay for the fee to play, sing, eat, swim, dance, sleep and supposedly read the Bible during daily meditation periods with kids from around the state.
Dwight Mission. That was the name of the camp where summer memories were made.
My younger sister and I were ping pong experts, especially in our own minds, and we ended up being camp champions each year. The prize was a ping pong ball with the year and DWIGHT MISSION hand printed on it. As I recall, it also had the words Ping Pong Champ penned on one side. I wonder if they survived the brutal batting of those game paddles thus ending up in a trash can with other memory scraps from those carefree days.
The dorm buildings were two-story rock structures with twin beds in each room, and a couple of group bathrooms on each floor. Fancy it was not, but we didn’t spend much time in our rooms so the dreary hall that ran down the center of each floor didn’t depress or curb our enthusiasm.
I don’t remember my roommates’ names, nor what they looked like. All those details held very little interest for me. I was far more excited and attention centered on boys.
From the time on Sunday afternoon when we arrived until the following Saturday my focus was centered on finding a boy who would escort me to the closing banquet and dance. My fantasy raced with expectations I wasn’t able to verbalize but yearned to experience. Maybe a kiss, maybe a letter after he returned home. How quickly those unfulfilled desires drifted into poignant memories.
Preteen hormones bounced throughout my body, with no understanding on my part why I even wanted a ‘date’. Perhaps because that was what some of the older girls were doing I didn’t want to be left out.
The days were short, the sweaty heat went unnoticed, the noisy meals enjoyed, the tacky key chains we weaved were cherished, and the square-dancing energizing.
Laughter I remember the most. No matter what we were doing, we were loud. We shouted as we ran to the swimming hole. Our singing at meals and during nightly campfire gatherings was boisterous. The whispering after lights out was riddled with giggles echoing down the hallways.
Yes, camp defined summers and when my camp experiences ended summers lost the magic, the anticipation, the eagerness, and the joy I always found at Dwight Mission.
If only I could go to summer camp once more, preferably at a hotel with air conditioning and room service.