There are a few phrases in the English language that are so ominous, so chilling, that they have the power to drain the blood right out of your head. One of them is, “Why is there brown water on the floor?” Another one, “Okay then, let’s just have you step up onto these scales here.” And almost on a par with those is, “Youth Camp.”
For some of you who may be unfamiliar, youth camp is a yearly summer tradition in the LDS church. Here’s the recipe:
*adolescents ages 12-18
Now let me first go on record as saying that I am well aware some of you people out there were born to camp, just like I was born not to.
You find this recipe to be ambrosia—thrilling and invigorating—and consistently petition the higher ups to let you be a part of it. I am eternally grateful that God built people like you. Especially having found out that my sons only brought along one pair of underwear each year—the pair they were wearing—and “couldn’t find” their toothbrush or deodorant for the six days of camping and hiking. You leaders are saints.
But for the rest of us, meaning mostly me, I find this recipe is akin to a plate full of boiled spinach and eggs. Probably good for me in the long run, but very unappealing at first, second and third glance.
And it’s not that I keep this declaration a secret, you guys. All you have to do is look at me to know. In fact, last year, when they announced in our church that we’d be going on a family pioneer trek, they almost felt compelled to add, “Yes, even Lisa Bingham.”
The last time I went was three years ago, but to me, it’s just as fresh as a cow-pie on a summer morning. It wasn’t really my finest hour, but here—you be the judge. This is a little journal/blog entry I did back then:
Night before departure: Begin painstaking prep by spending five hours in neurotic, hand wringing anxiety, followed by six minutes REM sleep before jolt of alarm clock adrenaline.
5:00 am—Dead Man Walking shower, make-up and hair assembly. No headache. Arrive two hours later at the mountainside. Bowels seize and headache begins. Stand and peer over edge of bottomless pit of profound and perpetual sleep deprivation. Pot gut squirrels swarm food supply while mob of teenaged girls move from one head to another in braiding assembly line . Eventually unpack and begin mass consumption of nutritionally void, sewer-toot producing cuisine.
Me—(Announcing to anyone who will listen) “HEY! MY HEAD HURTS. DID EVERYONE HEAR ME? LET ME REPEAT THIS, AD NAUSEAM. I AM SUFFERING FROM A MIGRAINE, PEOPLE. IT HURTS. IT HURTS. IT REALLY, REALLY HURTS. SEE HOW MY FACE IS LOPSIDED? SEE HOW ONE EYEBALL IS WEEPING? THAT IS THE PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION OF SAID HEADACHE. HAVE I GRIPED AND COMPLAINED ENOUGH TO SUFFICIENTLY IRRITATE YOU WITH MY LESS-THAN-PIONEER CONSTITUTION? NO? WELL, THEN, LET ME CONTINUE...”
Long suffering leader—”You might want to TAKE. SOME. SUDAFED. LISA. I really think that will *help you. (*shut you up).”
Me—”I can’t. My head hurts too much. I’m just going to whine about it—relentlessly—for the remainder of our time together. And finally, on the last night, I’ll take the Sudafed, which will result in a full recovery that comes four days too late.”
Leader—(inserting ear plugs) “Well, okay then. As long as you have a plan.”
Anyway, I’m sure you get the gist of things. Not necessarily grace under pressure, which is why I swore I’d never do it again. But if we’ve learned anything from Lagoon, child bearing and running for public office, it’s that there is some sort of Men In Black flashing light mind sweep that turns “NEVER, EVER AGAIN” into, “That was pretty fun, wasn’t it?”
Some kind of bright, sparkly, new baby smelling reward that allows the sacrifice and discomfort to take a backseat, to make way for the greater good to come shining through.
And by the last night, as you sit on an ant infested log with fifty fuzzy braids sticking out of your scalp, the anxiety is a distant memory, even if the migraine headache is not. And the girls and women sitting next to you are no longer just friends. But rather, your unwashed, river tubing, midnight toilet running, testimony bearing, s’more eating, bandana wearing, mosquito bitten, smoky campfire smelling, secret sister hearts are knit together, as only a Jesus sanctioned camping trip can do.
And now that I think about it, it was pretty fun, wasn’t it?...Hey, did anybody else just see a bright flashing light?