I used to go on these camps. Camps for disadvantaged and underprivileged youth.
They were heaven.
Here I was loved, believed, taken an interest in. Here I was invited to do things. Fun things. Child related things. I was asked to contribute to the chores – maybe once a day. Washing or drying dishes. That’s all!
We’d spend the day doing what we wanted. Running at the beach. Canoeing and kayaking. Swimming. Playing cricket. And craft! Lots and lots of craft! Paper crafts, paints, textas … but most of all, cotton crafts. Friendship bracelets.
And eating. We’d eat so much food! There was always food available. That I didn’t have to cook. I wasn’t responsible for feeding anyone else. I was served. Lots of yummy, homemade, healthy food!
Here I made friends with all sorts of people. Young people who were the old people (because I was younger). Older kids who had seen worse, but could still soften and soak you up! Young kids who had no idea how tough their life was going to get just because they had been born on that street or neighbourhood, or to those parents.
There was no room for bullshit. We had enough of that. More than is fair or even tolerable.
So this was our holiday.
It happened twice a year.
And at the depths of despair, holding the scissors or razors to my wrists, it was the love that I found here that encouraged me to not push as deep… or maybe stop for now.
The love was like nothing else you have ever experienced. It was all encompassing. It was joyful and happy. It was playful. It was attentive and interested. It was honest.
Here I was a child again.
But the intensity came with an epic double sword. The more powerful the love, the faster, the harder, the further the fall when Camp ended. And Camp always ended.
I remember there was this one moment that is being triggered right now. We were in the auditorium of the school where the parents, caregivers and state would collect us from. There was always a slide show of our fun and mischief. We would watch and laugh and cry. But most of all, we’d hug.
There was this one leader, Nev.
Ridiculously intense at all weird times of the morning! 🙂 He had so much energy. Always! He was so happy. He could run with the angriest. Swim with the silliest. And sit with the quietest.
In all honesty I’m not sure he was my favourite leader. But he was definitely one of them.
He had this thing, I don’t know if he created it, but he definitely repeated it. He would go up for a hug when asked. [There were rules, leaders couldn’t ask for a hug, but could return a hug – so I later found out]. Grab us tight and scream “group hug!” and it was amazing. People would swarm from god-knows-where to embrace you in this massive group hug. The only thing with Nev is that it was never one step of awesome. He’d then scream “what’s better than a group hug?” and everyone would scream back “a group hug jumping” And we’d all jump around in this massive tight bunch, jumping like an idiot, holding on for dear life. Because I was holding on, for dear life.
I remember the acceptance of me. The things I would see or say were okay. It wasn’t weird to have the truth blurted out. It wasn’t rude to be asked why you were acting like a dick, when in fact you were acting like a dick. They saw the light in me. A light that I been repeatedly told was not there, was broken, was irrelevant.
I had seen my mother.
I knew I had seconds to get my stuff together.
If I was lucky, she’d put on her facade for some of the regular leaders.
She liked to hear how well behaved I was.
It gave her ammunition.
I was saying goodbye.
One of the goodbyes that you hope you never have to say. To the loves of your life. All of them. To the atmosphere that was created by all of these beautiful, loving, giving people. And I had to leave it. And I knew what I was going back to. And I knew that this space and time would never happen again. Not with these people in this combination, sharing the jokes we shared. I was desperately hanging on for dear life.
I was hugging Paz. Nev joined in, and it became a jumping group hug. I was in heaven and hell. How could I leave this place? How cruel was the world that this could exist and be so far from my world.
She came up and snapped to “hurry the fuck up” How dare I be so rude. She so kindly, generously and ‘lovingly’ had taken time off of work to come and collect me. [After a week of having me out of her way, and for only $20 I might add]. And she needed to go back to work.
Hurry the fuck up.
You don’t understand. The years and years of programming and abuse had conditioned me. Hurry the fuck up. That was as bad as it would get in public. But by-god did I have to be very careful. I had to go out of my way to play up to her grandiose poison. Or I knew what would happen. And it would beat any last moment of Camp out of me.
Hurry the fuck up.
The washing had to be done. Our rooms tidied. The kitchen clean.
All the while, holding onto the profound and divine love that I had experienced. We would get these Warm Fuzzies. Notes saying nice stuff. And I would hold onto these, and any photos from Camp, so close to my heart. It eased the “After Camp Depression”. That’s a thing. I asked some of the leaders. How can something so loving, hurt so much?
I don’t know if they knew that I was holding on so tight. That I was holding on for dear life.
I’m not sure that it mattered.
Nev, thank you!
Those group hugs meant more than you’ll ever know.