High Dive

4H campMy granddaughter’s 13th birthday is approaching. Her special day is one of 17 that we celebrate yearly. This date—this year—would normally pass with a crisp bill tucked inside a card, signed “We love you! Grandpa and Nana.” But her parents have requested stories for her this year. So… Happy Birthday Mary—here’s a story for you about Nana. 🙂

In July 1968, I celebrated my 13th birthday by attending  4-H summer camp at a lakeside campground in southern Indiana. It was my first time away from my family—I was thrilled and terrified at the same time.

Mom and I shopped a couple of weeks before, getting all the supplies I’d need. We bought travel sized toothpaste, soap, and shampoo—plus a couple of shorts outfits, pajamas, a bathing suit, and a pair of pink & white rubber flip-flops.

4H camp busMost of the camping trip doesn’t register in my memory. I know we rode a school bus to the campground and back—Proof? That’s me above the “VI”. I’m sure there was some sort of craft activity—I vaguely remember weaving colored, plastic cords and a crude keychain. I know there were wood bunks and long tables and food trays—but I’ve also seen the movie, Meatballs, so maybe I’m confused?

I do have a couple of distinct memories though.

Going to the beach one day, we walked single-file from the campsite along a dirt path through the woods. I remember watching my feet instead of the scenery. My new flip-flops sprang up after every step, propelling me into the next one. I was mesmerized and as I concentrated on bouncing along the path, the girl in front of me suddenly screamed and jumped sideways. My next step put my foot inches from a little green & black garter snake. I thought, What a Priss! Why did she scream at that tiny thing?—but I screamed too…. Hey, that’s what 13 year old girls do, right? She and a couple of other girls huddled, crying, while the poor snake turned around and went back to where it came from—the girls finally calmed down and we walked on.

I looked forward to going to the beach, having learned how to swim many years before. Once we got there, I noticed a multi-level, diving platform in the lake and immediately swam out to it. The ladder to the top level was about 20 feet long. My thoughts while climbing it ran along the lines of pulling off the most perfect swan-dive anybody in the history of the world had ever seen!

I got to the top of the platform—panic set in and that voice in my head wouldn’t shut up! You have no idea how to do a swan-dive! You’ve never jumped from this high up before. There are people behind you—you can’t go back down the ladder. Well, jump… NO! Take a deep breath and JUMP… NO! Ok, so now who’s the Priss?

I jumped…. but, instead of pulling my knees up, using the water’s surface to slow and shorten my descent, I straightened my legs and pointed my feet, going deeper and deeper and deeper. I figured out—after it was way too late—that, without proper instruction in breath control and a whole lot of practice, 13 year old lungs don’t hold enough air for that kind of dive. I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE!

The lifeguard apparently thought so too. When I finally surfaced, she stood on the edge of the platform, screaming, “Are you ok?” Then she escorted me back to shore—I spent the rest of the day sheepishly wading along the shoreline in my pink & white flip-flops.

It’s been nice chatting with you Over the Back Fence! Let me know how I can help you preserve your family memories.


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