The Portugal Years, Year Six: Camp

Teens at first year of camp.
Teens at first year of camp.

Summer of ’83 saw the first year at camp. Kids hunkered down in their bunks or in one of the apartments (because the bunks were not completed). The necessities were there, but it was rough. The “kitchen” was a small shack that would eventually be the snack shack.

When I visited the camp with Bethy, the activity she saw entranced her and she begged to  be a camper. She was too young,  but she begged and her daddy would be there all day so she  joined the fun. I warned her that she had to stay the week. I was pregnant and I could not drive the car.  (A perfect example of how parents punish themselves.)

My beloved daughter had fun during the day, but the nights found us both weeping and missing one another. She made friends of both American and Portuguese kids, and had one special friend named Matthew. He was an “older man” (he was six)  and fascinated her by showing her how the side pieces of his glasses could be stretched and pulled and not break. Except that he broke them….


By the next year, spring of 1984, the camp was fully ready for the campers. Benches and wooden adorned the dining hall, and restaurant appliances and kettles, stoves and a walk-in refrigerator filled the kitchen. The cooks made good use of the facilities and kept the hungry campers well fed. The snack shack covered during the times in between meals. I contributed to the snack shack food with homemade cinnamon rolls – they never got completely cooled.

The apartments, set away from the noise and fray, was a good trot to the dining hall. Bethy spent her days running around camp all the day long. Susie was happy as long as she could see me from where she was. They never lacked for company from among the campers!

Staff members were encouraged to eat their meals in the dining hall. I tried to coöperate. The stumbling block was that Susie found the noise level in the dining room intolerable. Generally, I ate quickly and took her back to the apartment before she had a meltdown.

One noon before lunch, she nursed and fell asleep. I figured she would be safe enough if I walked up to the dining room for a bite to eat. My bad. I had scarcely arrived at the dining hall when one of the campers came up to tell me that Susie was crying. Bellering was more like it. I could hear her before I was halfway back to the apartment.

But, as summer came to an end, Susie became accustomed to the noise in the dining hall and looked the food over. Till then she wanted no food but mother’s milk. One day the kitchen put out ripe pears  for dessert. I watched Susie as she reached out for one of those soft juicy pears, then mashed it with her tongue and ate it. And begged for more. There was no stopping her after that.

Susie at camp
Susie at camp

What do you think that blue thing is in the picture?

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33 thoughts on “The Portugal Years, Year Six: Camp

  1. Well, I’m probably way off base, but it looks like it might have a hole in the middle. I can’t judge the size of the hole, but the piece does look gaily painted. Wild guess: Potty trainer?

    And another excellent installment Susan. Thank you for the time you put into sharing these scenes with us.

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