Spring fever causes dirty memories

Published 7:57 pm Friday, March 12, 2010

If goldenrod brings on hay fever then surely daffodils bring on spring fever.

And, I’ve got a full-blown case of it.

Not the kind of spring fever that you get when you’re young and in puppy love. The kind that mature-figured gals get that makes us claustrophobic and in a panic to get rid of all the clutter in our lives.

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Out go the boxes of canning jars that we’d saved for the beans and squash from the garden we never planted. The yellow, polka-dot bikini from years and pounds ago, stacks of handwriting exhibits from one of the young’uns or the other, towels “borrowed” from the Holiday Inn, a sack of socks in-waiting for their mates to reappear. Newspapers from the inauguration of Teddy Roosevelt. Topless Kool-Whip cartons, pens without ink, brochures from places we’ve been and places we’ll never go ….

And, looking through that mound of brochures, I became a child again and a lump swelled up in my throat.

Why, Mama, bless her heart, she did save something of mine after all.

See. Mama had a favorite child. Bubba. I’d always thought that but I had proof of it one spring when Mama caught “the fever” and was overseeing the cleaning out of the storage house.

There was Bubba’s everything, from his first pacifier to his first baseball glove. From every ABC he ever wrote to the razor he used to shave on his wedding day.

“Where’s my stuff, Mama? What did you save of mine?”

Mama didn’t have anything to say about that.

But, I didn’t have a lot of stuff to save. I was a tomboy and didn’t have a collection of dolls, tea sets or batons. I had a BB gun, a Howdy Doody puppet and a teddy bear. Lots of funny books, marbles, roller skates and a bow and arrows. None of that was in the storage house that day.

But nothing she could have saved would have been as memorable and as cherished as what I found among the brochures packed in the top of the “chester drawers” – the leaflet from Camp Grandview, my first “going off to camp” experience.

Mama said Camp Grandview was way off on the other side of Montgomery but I wanted to go more than anything in the world. And I went into a begging fit.

Mama didn’t want me to go. She said she would be worried sick and wouldn’t sleep a wink the whole time I was gone. Daddy said it would do me good to go off from home a few days. He won out.

Tucked inside the leaflet was the receipt from where Daddy paid my one-dollar registration fee. The whole week of camp only cost $16.50.

I’d handled that leaflet so much that the paper was worn as thin and soft as silk. It was as clear in my memory as if I’d held it just that very day of discovery.

I remembered every picture and every word.

It said there was water at Camp Grandview for swimming and for drinking and it was tested by the State Department of Health. Maybe that eased Mama’s mind. Wholesome meals with plenty of fruit, fresh vegetables and milk were “traditional with Grandview. Not with me. Betsy’s milk made bumps on my tongue.

And the camp was equipped with running water, electric lights and telephone – not telephones, telephone.

We were to bring one blanket, two sheets single bed size, pillow case, towel, wash cloth, bathing suit, swimming cap, play clothes, drinking cup, toilet articles (I didn’t know what that was) flashlight and Bible.

And, the leaflet said it “would be nice to bring” extra things like costumes, a Kodak, jack-knife, a rain slick and scissors.

I carried my Tuf-Nut knife. Back then, young’uns were allowed to have knives. We needed such things.

Each day at Camp Grandview was divided into Happy Hours, Breakfast – clean cabins, hobby groups, swimming. Lunch – hobby groups, outdoor recreation, swimming. Supper – stunts, plays, campfires, parties, music vespers. How exciting.

The activities for us were swimming, tennis, tumbling, shuffleboard, ping-pong, softball, crafts, dancing, dramatics, storytelling, rainy day games, hiking, worship and outdoor cooking. It all sounded fun, except for “dramatics” whatever that was. I was in for the time of my life.

Camp Grandview was the grandest thing that had ever happened to me.

I made lots of friends, got to go swimming in the huge pool that was at the bottom of a steep hill and there were a hundred steps going down to it and about 300 going back up.

Hiking was so much fun and all the outdoor stuff.

I was the best person at camp with a knife. Some of those girls were from big cities like Montgomery and they didn’t bring knives and they were scared of mine or of me.

The campfires were the best things. I got to help start the fire just about every night.

I was good at that because back home we played with fire a lot.

Even though I was sad to leave such a good time, I could hardly wait to tell Mama and Daddy all about all of my adventures.

Mama wasn’t too interested. And that was my fault.

See. She had packaged my play clothes in little bags. Clean clothes for each day – socks, a pair of shorts, a shirt and my “under britches” and a washcloth. The soap was in a plastic soap dish Mama had bought special at the dime store.

Now, at home, I’d bathed in the bathroom by myself. At Camp Grandview, all the girls bathed in showers in a big, open bathroom. They would jerk back the cloth curtains on each other. They thought it was funny. Well, it wouldn’t be funny to me. So, I just didn’t take a bath … not the whole long week. But I went swimming two times a day.

Mama might never have known about it, except I took those little bags of clean clothes and that dry bar of Jergens soap right back home with me.

Mama didn’t want to hear about my good time at camp. She marched me to the bathroom holding her nose and twisting my ear all the way.

In telling that dirty tale again and again over the years, Mama said I was crusted over with dirt and that she had to use a scrub brush and Dutch Cleanser to get me clean. She said corn could have grown between my toes.

Well, Mama washed all the dirt and grim away but not even the years could wash away the memories of Camp Grandview. I’ve never been that dirty again and I’m not sure that I’ve ever had more fun than the summer I went away to camp way off on the other side of Montgomery.