14- Summer at Camp Bloomfield
This story happened 2 years before I met Rory. It was a memorable summer, a significant part of my history. My goal is to show more of my mindset in my early twenties.
All through college I stayed in contact with Nancy, my best friend in high school. In 1967, we had the idea of finding summer jobs where we could help people in some way. Nancy’s older sister, Carol, whose personality and advice had already been so impactful to us years before, was following John F. Kennedy’s call and serving in the Peace Corps in Kabul, Afghanistan, as a Registered Nurse. I’m sure this impacted us greatly.
Nancy heard about summer camps for blind children, so we sent out several applications, hoping to spend the off-school months working together in the same location. But that did not pan out.
Nancy took a position in a blind camp in northern California. I accepted a job with the Foundation for the Junior Blind in southern California. The camp was seven miles inland from that glorious spot of warm, sandy, Pacific-Ocean-beach called Malibu. Unfortunately for those of us who liked to body surf and tan our bodies, we were not allowed off site except on the weekends or for emergencies.
Room and board were provided for the counselors and staff, and at the end of the summer each of us would receive $200.
I hooked up with three people who had come from other states and who primarily wanted to experience California life. They were very good counselors and cared about the kids, but the second the last camper had been picked up by his parents we were on the road!
It was very rewarding to help blind and partially-sighted youngsters take hikes, swim in the heated pool, and work on crafts. It was fun to fix the girls’ hair, take dictation and write letters that they could send home, and play games with them. One sweet eight-year old formed an attachment to me and, for about a year, she sent me many friendly letters in Braille. Her mother wrote under the lines of Braille the translation of Stacey’s embossed points and dots.
A few weeks into the season, the director lost his office girl. He found out about my office skills and re-assigned me to the job of being his secretary. It was a huge disappointment and not what I had signed up to do.
The campers were moved from activity to activity by holding onto a rope and being led (and surrounded) by the staff. My friends would wave and send me “wish you were out here with us” compassionate looks as they walked past my workplace window.
When I read my mom’s family history recently there was a long paragraph about my self-centered mind-set during that time period.
This is what my mother wrote:
Georgi was going through a rebellious period, and the summer was a very difficult one for us. She came home just a few times; and when she did, she brought about twelve young people with her. The first time, we didn’t mind. They brought their dirty clothes, and Georgi washed and dried them. We made popcorn and sat around talking. The next time the group arrived, some of them were obviously on drugs and had a glazed look in their eyes. We were so worried.
Georgi didn’t contact us in between visits and we never knew when she would appear. I used to lie awake at night and listen for the sound of her car, which I could easily recognize.
Finally, she came home one Saturday with a girlfriend. She told us she was taking her car and driving some of her friends to Mexico.
George and I said, “Absolutely not. If you’re picked up for the least infraction, they will throw you in jail and throw away the key.” She said that she was going whether or not we approved, and we begged her to think about it.
It was a miserable summer. George and I were both so upset and worried, and felt so helpless. She did not end up going to Mexico but the distance between us was noticeable.
This headstrong, rebellious girl, was trying to walk on her own but had an independent and haughty demeanor.
My lack of empathy was crushing my greatest allies, the people in my life who truly loved me. My parents never shouted or shook their fingers at me or my sisters. When we were young they disciplined us, but when we were adults they bore with our failings, shortcomings, and defiance with patience and grace. They tried to reason with us when they disagreed with us, but my sisters and I agree that they were real life examples of the unconditional love of Jesus.
Each of us girls has our story of how God got our attention and we came back to Him, and to normalcy and reasonableness, and I am happy to say that we (and our husbands and children) had many years of loving relationship with our parents.