A Summercamp Experience
For years, I knew that I had to write about this memory from the summer of 1961. I was ten years old. My parents thought that I was more fit to manage to be away than my twin-brother. We didn’t talk about going to the summer camp, at least, I don’t recall any preparation.
My twin brother and I attended Sunday school, and the organisation for Sunday Schools owned a camp situated on a big grassy area close to the beach a few hours in a car from our home.
Soon after arrival, I was in a state of shock and alarm realising that I was far away from home had no way of returning and in the next two weeks. We probably came to the summer camp by bus with other children, but somehow none of the girls from my Sunday School was there. I had never been apart from my twin brother, and he was with the boys in another dormitory. I don’t remember meeting him during the time I was at the place.
Lying on my bunker bed, I had a lady to say goodnight to me, but nothing could substitute my mother. In the mornings, I would look at my clothes in the big brown trunk only to be confused about how to find the right clothing for the day.
I walked around, looking down as I didn’t want to show anybody that I was crying. At the noisy breakfast table, the oatmeal flakes stuck in my throat. The other meals were not very successful regarding being able to eat.
Very soon I wrote postcards to my parents about my sufferings. I pointed out that I was in a terrible situation and that I needed to come home. I wasn’t so good at spelling, but the need for expressing myself was too urgent to really care about it.
The same summer, before leaving home, I had seen blurry and horrible pictures in a weekly magazine about how people were kept against their will in Nazi Concentration camps. I knew that I couldn’t compare my situation with that, but somehow to me, the place looked a bit like what I had seen.
A volunteer nurse tried to help me out of the vicious circle by inviting me to be with her in her small office. Children on the camp could be attended to when they had minor accidents. I felt like being in a doctor’s waiting room, not knowing when I would be let out again. The situation could have been easier for me if anybody had known that I liked to draw and sew on my own instead of playing in bigger groups.
One day I was offered to become a princess sitting at the feet of a Hans Christian Andersen character while he read fairytales to all the children. I wrote home that I would rather not be a princess but wanted to come home and that none of the girls wanted to play with me.
After a week the parents could come to visit, and I succeeded to go home with them. My brother stayed though I don’t think he enjoyed it very much. He wrote that one night he was thrown water in his face.
I had two moments of pleasure during the stay. One was singing Danish songs with a group of girls and a leader while we were walking along the road bordered with trees. The other situation was going to swim in the sea. Unfortunately, the swim was over too quickly. The leaders had to help all the children to bath in turns.
Pictures from the camp at a trip in 2017
As soon as my mother showed up, I changed to the standard edition of me. I was able to smile again. To be at home alone with my mother without my brother was something I had not tried. I can’t recall anything from that week though I am sure I enjoyed our meals.
Why was it so difficult for me to function outside of our home?
My twin brother and I were born two months prematurely, and at that time, the professional attitude was that they knew better than parents how to treat hospitalised infants. Parents were not well-seen at the wards. When we finally were released at the age of two months, my mother had to learn how to take care of us. She was nervous that we should contract some infection like much-feared polio and kept us home until we started at school.