At home in summer…

June 13, 2008 at 12:54 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Okay, so it had a telethonish name. Second okay. Many disability activists have scorn for camps for kids with disabilities.

Sorry, I don’t.

Five and later six twelve kid cabins, a separate accessible showers-and restroom building, a dining-and recreation area. A pool. (*without* a ramp, when I went there! It has one now. No one had thought of it in 1948 when the camp began or in my first summer 1970 when I was eight-going-to-be-nine)

Concrete floors (damn were they cold on bare feet!) and leftover cots, maybe from an army base. We brought our own things to brighten up our space for the two weeks.

It was the first place I did chores. The counselors wouldn’t take any lazyass whining, so I learned to sweep as well as make my bed. I didn’t see it as sexist at the time, because the counselors made the boys make their beds and sweep too. Anybody who didn’t have the physical capability (or cognitive ability) to do these chores were shown parts of them, and did what they could. The kids with more physical and/or mental capability were expected to help those who did not.

(I think this was a conscious effort to break down some obvious prejudice in myself and my schoolmates, who tried to self segregate on the basis of being ‘smart’ or not.

We didn’t want to play or socialize with the kids who were congnitively impaired, but this, and mixed activity ended up forcing the issue.

I think a lot of us were too young to confront our prejudice right at that moment, but did later, and it helped anybody that we came in contact with later in life that had a cognitive impairment; cut down on the jerky behavior, exclusion or cruelty.

Teenagers went there too, and the counselors job with those kids was to practically spend 24/7 trying to prevent any public displays of affection, pairing up, brief ‘dating’ ideas or god forbid hooking up.

(Thankfully, although I didn’t ‘hook up’ there, I did meet my husband there, and evaded enough of the ‘dating police’ crap to have some sweet early times)

So, I just can’t hate the sappy name, the stupid songs or the friends and boyfriend I remember meeting there. I didn’t feel excluded. It was freeing….to not be ‘the crippled kid’ because, well, so was everybody. It was the one part of particularly my adolescence when I wasn’t at the bottom of the social ladder.

My husband and I went back briefly in the summer of 1992.  We both wanted to walk the ground were we were most respected as people, and had met each other.  There are pictures of him standing there on a cloudy day with his camp tee shirt he got when he was 17, smiling at some remembered prank.

The one thing that I’m sad about is that a lot of my friends from that time are gone, either far away or actually died pretty young,

We were a rowdy bunch in the seventies, up for being thrown into the pool, or wheelchair basketball or dancing, or marching around in the dark.

At home.



  1. Best Blogs and Websites for Midlifers | U-Turn Ahead said,

    […] Midlife and Treachery – This longtime blog covers a variety of topics ranging from Medicaid to Monty Python. Viewing life as a midlifer with a disability is often not all that different from many of our own experiences. And when it is different, you can expect to find an interesting post about it at Midlife and Treachery. Recommended Reading: At Home in Summer. […]

  2. cripchick said,

    have you read a book called Accidents of Nature by Harriet McBryde Johnson? it’s all about coming to community through summer camps— so good. what i think is very insightful is to study or discuss the way people come to community and how that has changed over time (i.e. how do disabled kids meet each other and view disability in a mainstream inclusion context v. ones of the past like summer camps).

    thanks for sharing your experience w/ us!

  3. imfunny2 said,

    cripchick, thanks, no, I have heard of that book (after a 2006 purchase and read of “Too Late To Die Young,) but haven’t read it yet. It is “on my list”

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