Tuesday, October 12, 2004

This isn't Bambi's 'Thumper'.

When I was nine I went to a Summer camp for the first and only time in my life. It wasn't my idea. It was forced on me. In theory it would be good for me and I would learn a lot from it.

I was in a year round school district so my Summer vacation was actually during the end of Fall and through Winter. I was in school all Summer long. I would be back in school after Christmas, so I missed out on Christmas vacation as well. Yeah, it sucked. Thanks District 11.*

So I got to spend three weeks in the mountains, in a cold cabin, wishing I wasn't.

I remember standing in line at the school in the chilly Fall weather, all bundled up, waiting for the bus to take us to Camp Iforgetthename. My mom was embarrassing me in front of all the other waiting kids by assuring me that I had enough clean underwear packed and how much she was going to miss me.

To be honest, I was going to really miss her too. It was going to be the first time I was away from my family for longer than a weekend and I was quite nervous. The clean underwear I didn't care about. I was a 9-year-old boy. She was lucky I was *wearing* underwear.

The bus arrived, we kids piled on and waved goodbye to our parents through the windows. Then we were off. I always suspected there was a celebration when the bus was out of site, and part of me was quite concerned that my parents were going to move while I was gone. I would arrive home from my enforced adventure and there would be a "For Sale" sign on the lawn and nobody to be found. My mom's tears as I was leaving would have really been tears of joy for a plan well done. I was a strange child.

I will now pause in this trip down memory lane to relate a bit of additional information. I'm nearsighted, but I wasn't born nearsighted. It had begun to manifest in 3rd grade. I HATED my glasses, but I needed them. So I would only wear them when forced to by necessity. I wasn't wearing them that morning. I was sure I had packed them in my suitcase though, with my socks.

Resume trip.

We arrived at camp and were rounded up from the busses into little groups of ten and taken to our new home away from home. Our cold cabin. There were five bunk beds and I wound up with a bottom bunk.

Since there was so much new stuff to see, and I was tired of the blur of bad vision I opened up my suitcase and dug around for my glasses. I couldn't find them. I searched the thing three times and could...not...find...them! Farrrgh!

I made an emergency call to home hoping that someone there knew where they were, but nobody did.

So until the last three days (when I found my glasses in my suitcase among my untouched clean underwear like they had never been missing) my time at camp was blurry. It made hiking and wildlife observation difficult and archery impossible. I had to make wallets instead.

Now, about 'Thumper'.

I had an unusual bunkmate.

About five minutes after 'light's out' our bunk would start to shake with a very fast "thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthump" that lasted a few minutes and then it would stop as suddenly as it had started.

I was a bit freaked by it and the next day a couple of the other cabin dwellers asked me if it was him or me. I assured them it wasn't me and that night we all listened for it. Sure enough, "thumpthumpthumpthump". I was vindicated, but still perplexed as to what he was doing.

Back then, I was still ridiculously innocent. I had no idea what the thumping meant. All I knew was that it shook the bed a hell of a lot and added one more unpleasant thing to an already unpleasant time.

It's possible that I was the only kid there unaware. There were several knowing looks when he was discussed and I did my best to mimic them. I didn't dare ask for clarification. I may have been ignorant, but I wasn't stupid. The only conclusion I was able to come to at the time was whatever he was doing it must have been tiring. He was snoring within seconds after the thumping stopped.

By the third day he had earned the nickname 'Thumper' and it stuck for the duration of our stay.

I don't think I took away any precious memories from my time at Camp Iforgetthename, but I did take some new anxieties, most notably the fear of losing my glasses. That's something, right?

My mom was waiting for the bus to arrive back at school, so I no longer had to fear being abandoned, so I guess it was a trade-off.

I was reminded of 'Thumper' when I was in the Air Force during basic training. There was a guy a few bunks down who engaged in a similar bedtime ritual. By that time I was no longer innocent and was just grateful that he wasn't above my head like the original had been.

---
*An explanation of Year-Round school. If I recall correctly (a lot of this time period is blocked out in my brain) elementary school went from K-6, then Jr. High was 7-9 and HS was 10-12. And the entire time that I was attending Penrose Elementary (3rd-6th) I was in this STUPID year-round thing.

The way it worked was the whole year was broken up into 3 blocks, A, B, and C. The A blockers had the Spring/Summer off, the B blockers had Summer/Fall (around a normal vacation), and the C's had Fall/Winter. It took an act of God for you to change blocks once you had been assigned one since to switch would mean either getting a double-length vacation or none at all. I was a 'C'.

WELL. Going from 6th grade to 7th grade they decided to do away with the whole Year-Round idea. Realized it was stupid. So when I was finishing up my school year I was informed that I had about two weeks off before I had to start 7th grade.

Toss into the mix my parent's divorce, my mom getting involved with "the man she married" and my going to an entirely different school than my friends and it's no wonder I've blocked it out.

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"Boring a hole in the patient’s head creates a door through which the demons can escape, and - viola! - out goes the crazy."