The AAA farm team version of the Boy Scouts, our weekly meetings were overseen by a bunch of guys who were clearly fans of old war movies and presided over us with all the warmth of George G. Scott’s Patton. There was a ritual we had to perform which would involve us reciting some non-sensical pledge of allegiance to Akela, the head wolf. My sister’s insider info on the female equivalent of the cub scouts, the brownies, revealed a similarly eerie ritual that saw them swear fealty to their head wolf equivalent – Brown Owl. Aside from this, I just remember playing a lot of dodgeball.
Whereas most kids looked forward to the weekend, I despite Saturdays because it meant waking up early to attend swimming lessons. The echoing shouts and screams of the other kids. The impossibility of doing the back crawl without running headlong into the opposing wall or a swimmer headed in the opposite direction. The sheer ridiculousness of the butterfly, an aquatic stroke so awkward and ineffective that I always considered it the musical equivalent of learning to play the flugelhorn.
I learned three things: 1. How to flip someone provided they are in the exact perfect position (left foot back, right foot forward, left hand gripping my belt, and right hand firmly gripping my shoulder, and leaning forward ever so slightly). 2. How to count to ten in Japanese. 3. How to dye a white belt yellow.
Apparently, the fact that my piano teacher marveled over what she termed my “piano fingers” was enough to convince my parents I was a childhood prodigy, despite my actual lack of anything beyond middling talent. I took lessons for three years before finally mustering up the courage to tell my mother I didn’t want to do it anymore. She responded as most any parent would: bursting into tears, tearing my piano workbook in half and then, a couple of days later, buying me a new workbook and suggesting we forget that last conversation.
I went on the recommendation of my cousins, regular attendees, but it was only on my first day that I realized it was a Christian camp complete with bible study, parable-themed plays, and nightly bonfires that customarily culminated in campers baring their fears, anxieties, or minor discretions and then receiving words of encouragement or absolution from the teen counselors. My sole admission was my honest regret at having chosen Christian bible camp over hanging by the pool all summer. My counselor could offer no solace.