Now that our Summer Camps issue is here I’m reminded of an incredible life lesson that’s stuck with me: Never have your mom write your name on your underwear. I learned this the hard way.
My worst summer camp memory even beats out peeing my pants on a 12-mile death march, getting rained on out in the woods and having to sleep in a car. I was about 8 when my parents dropped me and my brother off at camp. My mom had fond memories of Camp Four Echoes when she was a kid and just had to live vicariously through us.
You would think she was going to camp the way she prepared us and went through with a huge black Sharpie and wrote my name on every item I brought, including socks.
Camp started out normal — homesick, bug bites, etc. — and then for some reason on the second day my underwear went missing from my Army surplus duffel bag. I asked my brother and my bunkmates, but no one ’fessed up. I was stuck with the pair I had on for the remainder of camp.
The rest of the week went without incident, and I had even managed to enjoy camp and become attached to my newfound friends. Until the last day.
We were gathered outside the main lodge for a wrap-up good-bye send-off when the counselor called out: “Chris Bovey, can you please come up here?”
So I pushed my way through the 100 or so other campers, half expecting to be given a Best Camper of the Summer Award when, from behind her back, came my missing underpants. Written in black letters big enough for the kids in the back to see it — big enough to be seen from space — was “CHRIS BOVEY.”
The entire camp, including the counselors and my brother, erupted in laughter as I, like a dummy, grabbed my underwear and shamefully made my way all the way to the back of the group. Embarrassed doesn’t even begin to describe it; I wanted to disappear.
By the end of the day everyone had forgotten about Dirty Underpants Bovey, and life went on. Yeah, I hated summer camp for a long time after that. But now, as a dad of two boys, I’m torn: I don’t want to put them through the same thing, but I don’t want them to miss out either.
Maybe I’ll just leave their names off their underwear.