Letters from Camp Pokomoonshine

“I will not, under any circumstances, be leaving for Camp Pokomoonshine tomorrow.”

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Friday

Dear Mom and Dad,

How many times do I have to unpack the suitcase you keep re-packing for me?

It occurred to me last night, while Dad was on the phone with Grandma and I was listening in on the other line, that you might think this is “just the way kids are sometimes.”

Please. I assure you: I am not the way kids are sometimes. And I will not, under any circumstances, be leaving for Camp Pokomoonshine tomorrow.

I refuse to surrender my responsibilities here at home. I do not trust you to look after my turtle, especially after hearing Dad’s story about his childhood pet hamster. And I certainly don’t trust Billy to take over my paper route. He’s sloppy and I have a reputation to protect.

I know you must feel very silly now, having arranged your whole vacation months ago. But I’m sure you can cancel your hotel room and plane tickets and still get some of your money back.

And hey, maybe now we can all go see X-Men together instead of waiting ’til it comes out on video!

X


Saturday

Mom,

You would never believe what happened after our long, tearful goodbye in the parking lot. I get on the bus, and Miles Tamlin comes right up to me and tells me his mom is going to meet you and Eddy Fuller’s mom for martinis at the club the minute the bus pulls away.

Have you ever heard such a ridiculous lie in your whole life? As if you’d do anything but go straight home and stare solemnly at my empty room.

Anyway, I’ve been assigned to Hemlock Cabin, bunk #6. I’ve rolled out my sleeping bag, so I can sit on my bed while I write. But I’m not unpacking anything else, so I’ll be able to leave right away when you come to get me.

X

PS: Please hurry. I already hate it here.


Sunday

Dear Mom and Dad,

I stayed in my bunk for most of the day today, watching out the dusty window for your car to appear. One of the counselors came in and called me “Buddy” and asked me if I was “homesick.”

I suppose I am homesick, like a wrongly convicted prisoner is homesick: I am angry, and I am writing a lot of letters.

X

PS: Please retrieve me before I lose my dignity to this sick joke of yours. I know you wouldn’t really go to the Florida Keys for a week while your eldest son languishes in a backwoods hovel where his nickname,  for literally NO REASON, is “Bed-wetter.”


Monday

Dear Mom and Dad,

Where did you hear about this place? Did one of Dad’s college friends recommend it?

So-called “Camp” Pokomoonshine, is nothing more than a thinly veiled cover for some sort of communist experiment. All attempts at individualism here are quashed. Seriously, everyone here is OBSESSED with friendship, teamwork, and group activities.

Last night around the campfire, there was a series of nauseating “get to know you” games followed by mandatory sing-alongs. When one of the counselors saw me moving my mouth noiselessly instead of actually singing along, he gently elbowed me in the arm and sang louder himself, basically forcing me to join in. (AS IF.) This is the same one who keeps calling me “pal,” even though we’ve never been formally introduced.

Please bring me home before they fully brainwash me.

X

PS: I’m no longer asking as your son. I’m asking as a red-blooded American.


Tuesday

Dear Mom and Dad,

I have been tossing and turning all night. Awake enough to feel each mosquito carefully select the perfect patch of my sunburnt flesh to farm. Too exhausted to slap them away.

X

PS: I think I am dying.


Wednesday

Dear Mom and Dad,

Today they had sign-ups for camp activities. I registered for a needlepoint workshop in hopes that I could perhaps stitch S.O.S. on a pillow large enough to signal a passing helicopter. What a fool I have been, thinking you would come back for me!

Which is why I’ve also been sending letters to our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Sidel. Although she’s what, 90? 92? And half-blind. She probably can’t even read a letter, much less fly a helicopter.

X


Thursday

Dear Mom and Dad,

The needlepoint workshop was nearly cancelled. Turns out only two of us signed up, but luckily the other kid, Andy, has asthma and can’t play sports, so they basically had to keep it for him. (Why couldn’t I be blessed with such a convenient physical defect?)

Don’t get any big ideas. I’m not making any friends, and I still hate it here. I’m just using Andy. He’s teaching me how to fake an asthma attack. Maybe if I put on a dramatic enough show, they’ll rush me to a hospital, and you’ll have to come fetch me.

X


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Friday

Dear Mom and Dad,

Today I went on a canoe trip. I figured I would play it cool until we got to the middle of the lake. Then I would jump out of the boat, swim across to the woods on the other side, and hike to the highway, where I could thumb a ride into the nearest town and maybe find a nice foster family to live with.

But as it turns out, the lake was filled with tons of little jellyfish and I didn’t want to get stung, so I stayed in the boat. I suppose I could’ve shoved my paddling partner into the lake and commandeered the vessel. But one thing about canoes is that they’re pretty much impossible to paddle by yourself. That’s why communists love them so much.

X


Saturday

Dear Mom and Dad,

Today was the big Capture-the-Flag tournament. I had planned to hide in the bushes so nobody would make me participate. But when I saw storm clouds gathering overhead, I thought it would best to be running around in the field, where there was a higher chance I might get struck by lightening and you would be forced to come back early from Florida to pick up my charred remains.

You never know when or where lightening will strike, so I was really running around a lot — often, quickly, into the other team’s territory, where it occurred to me that holding a metal rod would increase my chances of being struck by lightening, so I stole their flag several times and ran around with it, often back into my own team’s territory, back to our “base.” It just so happens during this whole process, our team won the tournament, and we all got ice cream sandwiches.

I ate my ice cream sandwich very quickly, in hopes that I might get brain freeze and possibly even some brain damage, so you’d have to come get me and assist me with my learning disability for the rest of my life. But the ice cream sandwiches were already pretty melted, so there was very little chance of that happening.


Sunday

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know you were planning to pick me up in the morning tomorrow. And that’s great. The sooner, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

But I’m afraid this matter is out of my hands. I’ve just been informed that there’s a mandatory farewell celebration going on in the evening tomorrow — a big bonfire down by the lake. With s’mores. It sounds horrible.

I insisted that my family would not stand for further delays in my homecoming. That this basically constitutes kidnapping. That I would call the authorities if I had to. But the despots here at Camp Pokomoonshine will have none of it.

I’m afraid you’ll have to wait another night, Mom and Dad. Then you can come pick me up.

X

regatta

These photos were taken by James Bateman, Hallie Bateman’s grandfather, at his summer camp, which really was called Pokomoonshine, in 1914.

Go a few generations back in Hallie Bateman’s family tree and there are just claw marks left by a family of bears. She sometimes drinks paint water by accident and once drew a series of portraits of her friends as potatoes, which can be seen on her blog. She is the art director of The Bygone Bureau and also tweets.