Beach sand and green rosary beads… They’ll always remind me of the summer of 1961.
It was the year my brother, Steve, and I spent two weeks at Cedar Crest, a summer camp run by Catholic seminarians, in Green Harbor, Massachusetts. I remember the excitement and anxiety as we settled into our new digs, cabins named after saints.
Several things stand out about that first day:
– The cabins. Steve moved into one for eight-year-olds not too far from mine – St. Edward’s, the cabin for kids who were ten.
– All the bunk beds inside the cabins. Wally was my bunk bed mate who had already claimed the top bed upon my arrival. And that was okay by me; I was rather chubby in those days and was a little concerned about the worn springs. Plus I was known to occasionally sleepwalk and a top bunk could have been a problem.
– The Canteen. It was a store where we could buy soda, candy and ice cream. We all had accounts from which the counselors would deduct the amounts of our purchases. I think Dad put $5 into each of our accounts. It was our first taste of budgeting.
– Our first Canteen purchase. Steve and I bought green rosary beads.
There were many memories that summer:
– Truck rides to the beach and the ice-cold showers when we got back.
– Horseback fights on the beach and in the water where one kid was the horse and another rode his shoulders trying to knock over other teams (I was always a horse).
– Birch beer soda at The Canteen.
– Rosary bead walks after supper where campers roamed the camp’s grounds with the seminarians praying the rosary.
– Morning inspections when seminarians checked rooms for cleanliness and bed sheets for sand.
There’s one other memory, though, I still think about even today. Just before supper we all lined up in front of our cabins to listen to the Camp Director on the PA system announce the names of the Campers of the Day. My brother won the honor three or four times.
I wanted to be Camper of the Day more than anything and I prayed for it daily with my green rosary beads. But it never happened. It may had something to do with rarely passing morning inspection. Somehow, the counselors always found beach sand in my bed sheets.
Too many horseback fights on the beach, I guess, and not enough time in those freakin’, cold showers…
Anyway, here’s my poem about it:
Whenever I come up short,
I remember summer camp
at Green Harbor Beach.
Along with birch beer
and pistachios, my brother
and I bought rosary beads,
green ones, at
the Cedar Crest Canteen,
extra blessing insurance
to assure us honors
as campers of the day.
And while they worked
for him, I never passed
never seeming to sweep
enough beach sand
from my bed sheets,
leaving me without hope
for camping accolades.
Yet, I never gave up prayer
and still sleep with sand
between the bed sheets,
green rosary beads
under my pillow.