My Time at Camp

If you are sending your kids to summer camp, read this first

click to enlarge CHRIS BOVEY
Chris Bovey

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. 

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