I was 19, a waterfront counselor unable to work because the waterfront had been smashed by a hurricane. I was restless. The campers were restless. Five 9-year-old boys were causing so much trouble the director asked if I could help. “They need an adventure,” I told him.
“You’re right,” he readily agreed. Why don’t you take them out of camp and keep them busy for a couple of days.” He took my silence as a yes. It was blueberry season. I remembered how my mother and I had picked buckets of wild blueberries and made pancakes, jam, cakes, and muffins. Maybe I could do some of this with the boys.
When the director told them they were going on a 2-day camping trip with me, and if they were having a good time, they could stay out for 3 days, Max told the director, “Camping with a woman isn’t going to be much fun.”
I rolled my eyes. “How many women have you camped with?” I asked. Silence. “Maybe you’d rather stay in camp?” Silence.
The director was so anxious to get the boys out of camp, he agreed to whatever I asked for. Rucksacks, canteens, and sleeping bags were found. It was warm. We’d sleep out in the open. I packed supplies and hung them in a bag from my rucksack. The boys would carry food, water, and camping gear. I had them practice carrying their packs and immediately they complained their packs were too heavy. I told them I had no interest in their whining, they could carry their packs or stay in camp. “You’re no fun,” muttered Alex.
“Neither are you,” I responded untactfully. “Stay or go. Your choice.” Why had I said I’d take them camping? I hadn’t expected gratitude but I did think they’d be excited about leaving camp and sleeping out.
As soon as we left camp the boys began arguing about who was carrying the most weight. Soon they’d taken off their packs and were fighting, cursing, and hurling insults, just as they had in camp. Furious, I yelled, “You’re acting like a bunch of spoiled brats. If you want to come, put on your packs and join me. If you don’t, go back to camp. And, if you think your backpacks are too heavy, you’re welcome to carry mine.” Without looking to see what they’d do, I started walking. Fast.
I could hear footsteps behind me but I was still so mad I just kept going, only stopping when I heard one of them yell, “Nancy, stop! Jeff fell! He’d tripped and fallen, skinning his knee. The blood made it look worse than it was but I treated it with care.
“How far do we have to go?” he whined.
“About three miles,” I said, still not feeling particularly sympathetic.
“How long will it take?” he asked looking a lot less cocky than when we started.
“Depends on how fast we walk, how many pit stops you need. Maybe we should go back and forget about camping,” I said, wishing I hadn’t agreed to take the boys camping.
Kenny picked up his backpack. “I vote to keep going. Anything is better than camp.” The other four reluctantly nodded. I handed out small chocolate bars tha cheered them up.
We arrived at the campsite, the boys tired and sweaty, more than ready to put their packs down. At least their grumbling had subsided. I gave everyone a job while I prepared the firepit. When we finished, I told the boys to follow me. Picking up on my excitement, they walked through brambles, tripped over rocks, and pushed their way through high grass without complaint. Not one of them asked why we were no longer on a path.
“Here we are,” I announced. Gasping with pleasure, they could not believe their eyes. Bushes and bushes of ripe blueberries. Even with eating as much as we could, we quickly filled the bucket.
“What are we going to do with all the berries?” asked Dan, his tongue and lips bright blue.
“You’ll see,” I teased.
Back at camp, I put the blueberries, a bit of water and sugar into a metal pot and set it over the fire. While the boys took turn stirring, I mixed up a thick batter and put some around sticks the boys had cut and stripped of bark. When the blueberries had cooked and thickened, I took the bowl off the fire so the boys could cook their batter until it was nicely browned. They slid it off their sticks on to tin plates and I spooned blueberry jam over it. The boys ate with gusto, asking for more.
“I guess it’s not so bad camping with a woman,” I teased.
“Who knew,” quipped Max.
How open are you to new experiences?
Life tales from a woman different living in The City Different.