CAMP…The word alone causes my blood to go cold. CAMP…Most kids at Rainelle Elementary looked toward summer with great, gleeful, anticipation. But little Colin Lively ticked off the days leading to summer break with great dread, as if I were Marie-Antoinette counting down to the guillotine day. Not quite the same, but the horrors it conjured up for me were, for a 7 year old, just about the same.
I preferred beauty pageants that I would host and my three nieces were always the contestants for The Most Beautiful Girl in the World pageant. But, not one of them would ever win, because, you see, I was the judge. And being the judge, and not seeing myself as a very boyish boy, I saw no reason whatsoever that I could not wear The Most Beautiful Girl in the World crown. I always chose myself. 2nd runner-up was always Sarah. 1st runner-up up was always Diana Fern, and that left only Susie, who was always certain that she had won the much coveted award, but, alas, once again, the title went to the judge, none other than me, Colin Lively. Susie would go screaming to her mother, one of my 3 older sisters, Loyce. Susie was belly crying, the “can’t catch your breath” kind of crying. And Loyce would be screaming, HILDAMAE!!. (We all called mother Hildamae, because the word Mother or Momma made her feel old. As far as she was concerned, she didn’t have 3 daughters, but 3 sisters. Yeah, sure, like any one was going to believe that one.) ” Do something with this brat of yours. He keeps making Susie cry”. Hildamae, “Baby Boy(she always called me Baby Boy), why don’t you let Susie win The Most Beautiful Girl in the World?”. And I would answer, because she isn’t The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, I am. The winner had been chosen, and nothing was going to change it.
I tortured my niece, but my own torture was just about to start. CAMP SHAW-MI-DEL-ECA. It’s an Indian word for “Send Your Little Sissy Boy To Us So We Can Make His Life a Living Hell for Two Weeks”. To understand what I mean, one needs to understand Camp-Shaw-Mi-Del-Eca. It was, and is, a campground in Greenbrier County where all the boys from the finest Greenbrier County families go, most of whom lived in Lewisburg in one of the grand mansions, or one of the estates that go on for miles all around Lewisburg. Even though where I was from is in Greenbrier County, it was Rainelle, and to be from Rainelle to those snobs, one might as well have been from Clay County, which is the bottom of a barrel in West Virginia.
I had to learn how to suck snake venom out of my veins in case a copperhead would strike on one of our daily, endless, hikes in the Greenbrier State Forest. I had to learn how to kill a bear, or a raccoon, or a squirrel in case I got lost in the woods and was on the verge of starvation, how to rub two pieces of wood to make a fire to cook the animal. And which plants were safe to eat, and which were poisonous. And all that, as scary as it was, is nothing compared to the louts I had to spend two weeks with.
Hildamae would take me shopping for new duds at the Rainelle Department Store, but would have me take Stone and Thomas bags to camp. And as chi-chi as S & T was, it was nothing compared to the bags from Yarid’s, the most exclusive store in West Virginia (still is). So when I would arrive with my Stone and Thomas bags, only to be totally outdone by the sea of Yarid’s bags, I knew that I was outclassed and was, again, going to be the butt of hillbilly jokes. Lewisburg thinks of itself as the bastard child of Albemarle County, Virginia, the whisper of the west in West Virginia.
Once those two weeks were over, there was more pain and suffering for Baby Boy. Off to Cleveland, every summer of my life. “White Gloves and Party Manners” classes, every day. Did you hear me, EVERYDAY. Do you have any idea what 2 hours of year after year of learning to curtsy and bow is like? Don’t drink the finger bowl. It’s a salt cellar, not a sugar bowl. Be careful. You don’t want that on your raspberries. The position of the fork and knife while resting, and when finished, so that without being asked, the waiter would remove the plate when the position was just right. Any one need a slightly used bellpull? Why are they called Pinks when they are bright red? The proper positioning of pincenez. To be able to recognize the difference between a nosegay and a tussie-mussie. And a tussie-mussie from a pomander ball. Young men sit with their feet solidly on the floor, the same distance apart as the hipbones are wide. Hands on knees, the girls with crossed ankles, knees turned sideways, to the left. Skirts smoothed. All this just to keep the boys honest.
I can tie square knots and make pomander balls at the same time. Useless! And the properly positioned fork and knife mean absolutely nothing. Bellpulls seem to all have mechanical problems. To live in a world where they piss on the side of the road. Thank God, Hildamae isn’t here to see this.
There is a different kind of Camp. And that leads me to my very special guest for the next Colin Lively Show. The hysterically funny, spot on poignant, outspoken, opinionated, Camp Elaine.
Camp Elaine is a YouTube superstar with a large and growing fan base as more and more people turn off their tvs and radios, and use the internet. This is the Golden Age of internet tv and internet radio, and Camp Elaine will be remembered as one of the early greats. Her shows are short, hysterically funny, and commercial free. And I can watch them any time I like. Camp Elaine has been in show business since she was 7 years old. She started as a tiny little ice skater, swirling and spinning on the ice. A cherubic little blonde, who is still a cherubic, little blonde. And I am proud to say she is an adored friend of mine, and I am so happy to have her appearing on my show. Say Hello to Camp Elaine. You are sure to become another fan.
Friday, December 9, 2011 ~ 2 pm EST (11 am Pacific)
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