How I Accidentally Sent the Girl to Bible Camp:
A Sadly True Story.
Years ago, when the girl was in elementary school, her class went to a nature camp about an hour away from where we live.
I, of course, did not go, because I hate nature [and Nature], and pretty much all children and probably most of their parents and for sure the experience of sleeping in a bunk bed.
The husband did not go because he is a workaholic and this was not a field trip to a sporting event, like a baseball game, which is the only field trip he magically found time to chaperone.
So the girl went with her classmates and those parents who are better at being outside/more patient with children. A win for everyone!
Needless to say, she LOVED IT. Loved being outside and loved camping and campfires and camping games and ziplining and making campfire stew and scratching bug bites and all that other stuff that people do when communing with the great outdoors.
A few weeks after she came back, we got a brochure from the camp advertising its various summer camps - stuff like Outdoor Survival and Live Like Hill People and The Many Uses of Pinecones. The girl lobbied to be able to camp - a whole week in the outdoors! How exciting! - and the husband and I were trying to figure out what to do with her while we worked during the summer [probably throwing kibble on the floor and making sure the water bowls would be filled was not going to work]. We looked at the brochure, checked it out online, and it looked like a good, American, outdoorsy place to be.
While we were checking this out, friends of ours were also looking for a camp to send their son to. They were thinking of sending him to a Catholic camp up north. The husband asked if they were really sure they wanted to send their 11 year old boy out into the woods with priests.
We met for dinner and lots of drinking and decided it would be nice for the kids to go to camp together. They'd know someone, they already knew the layout of the camp, and why not? Fun, right?
So my friend got on the phone with the camp and did more checking around and let me know that she was pleased with the camp and impressed with their credentials. I figured, great, between our information pool, this should be a great place for the kids to be for a week.
We told the girl she and her friend would be going to camp together. They were excited. We got applications and sent in the check. The husband, as he was filling out the check, said to me, "You know this is run by the Detroit Presbytery, don't you?" I was busy playing SuperMario or something and said, "Yeah, sure, that's fine," because although I had no idea what the Detroit Presbytery was and though it sounded kind of religious, I figured it was like the Girl Scouts or the YMCA. Sure, that Christian thing is in the YMCA, but I've not really seen how it affects their day to day operations of a swimming pool and tennis courts.
Then we got the information packet from the camp, including the packing list. Here are the first few items, which may have caused a more aware person to pause:
BibleThe girl and I looked at it and went, "Huh." I said, "Well, maybe people like to take their bibles with them places." I don't know. I mean, people do, right? Or is that just Jehova's Witnesses? How would I know? I was raised Muslim and am currently . . . a lapsed Muslim, the husband was raised Catholic and is currently an atheist/agnostic [depending on the day] and the girl was raised without much religion at all, except for random holiday visits to mosques and churches and exposure to kid's books such as The Children's Bible and What is God? and What is Islam? [Can you guess that the grandparents were suppliers of reading materials? Except for What is God? I got her that when she started asking all kinds of questions that I had no interest in answering.] and so she's identified herself as an atheist.
So we packed everything, except the bible, and, on beautiful summer Sunday, we drove an hour to the camp and dropped her off, meeting up with our friends so we parents could head out and enjoy some FREE TIME!
My first clue that something was not what I had thought it would be [yes, besides the whole Detroit Presbytery and instruction to pack a bible] was that the guy directing traffic into the camp was wearing a t-shirt with a tree that had a cross in it. I thought that was kind of Jesus-y, but what do I know? People wear religious t-shirts everywhere - the gym, court, hoedowns. Why not while directing camp traffic?
Ignoring this omen, we unloaded the girl's stuff, signed her in, and helped her set up her bunk. There were a number of other girls already there, and they seemed nice, as did the counselors. The building was set near a lake and in the midst of all types of greenery and probably near where a lot of woodland creatures made their homes. The girl's friend was to bunk on the other side of the building and we checked out his space and they looked like they were ready for us to leave, so we left.
And had a lovely dinner.
And enjoyed our week at home, with the quiet and the knowledge that the girl was having the kind of nature-inspired fun she'd never get from us personally.
So a week went by and we drove back out to pick her up. She looked tan, tired, and happy. We got in the car and headed home, basking in a parental job well done. And I asked, "Well, how was it? Did you have fun?"
The girl: It was a bible camp.
The girl: It was a bible camp. I was the only person there without a bible.
The girl: BIBLE CAMP. We had vespers and said grace and they had religious sing alongs that everyone but me knew the words to and people were supposed to read from the bible every day and IT WAS BIBLE CAMP.
Me: I am so sorry. Oh, my fucking god, I am sorry.
[Meantime, the husband and I are avoiding eye contact because I can see he is going to burst out laughing and I am about a second away from losing it.]
The girl: It was fine. We got to swim and stuff, but I was the only person there who was not Christian. And I didn't have a bible, so I had to borrow someone's to read when it was my turn, and I still don't even know what vespers is.
The husband: Vespers is something something [I forget what].
Me: Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. I'll do a better job of checking out where we send you from now on.
The girl: Yeah, thanks.
The husband: I told you it was run by the Detroit Presbytery.
Me: I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THAT WAS! I'm sorry!
The girl: It was fine.
Me: Do you want to go back next year?
The girl: NO!
And so I spent an hour's drive apologizing and trying not to laugh. The girl suffered no long-term ill effects and still enjoys the outdoors.
A few weeks later, I was cleaning the girl's room and ran across her journal from the camping trip. Now, I am a pretty big stickler for privacy because I was afforded absolutely none as a child, but I couldn't help myself, I had to see what she'd written.
There were only a few pages with writing, and they all had a variation on this theme:
Mom and Dad
Sent Me To BIBLE CAMP.
We still periodically ask her if she wants to go back. She always says no.