recess radio program

01/03/07
Camp Crystal Lake
    by Lola Haskins

As soon as our daughter was big enough, which to us meant the summer she was 8, we sent her to Camp Crystal Lake. It's only a 45 minute drive from where we were living then, and, because it's associated with the school board, lots of her friends were going to be there too, so we thought it would be a gentle introduction to fun away from home. Like many summer camps, Camp Crystal lets the kids pick their own activities. And since reading through the brochure the spring before (this was back when home computers were a rarity), all of them sounded great to me. When we went to pick D'Arcy up, I couldn't wait to hear what she'd chosen. Would it be hiking? Swimming? Canoeing? Newspaper? Archery? Arts and Crafts? Indian lore? What?

Thinking about all the fun driving over, I hadn't taken into account that I was going to be so happy to see my little one that any quizzing was going to have to wait until she'd rushed up and jumped into my arms in a way she hadn't done since she was five. We loved it. She was heavy. After not so long, I put her down, and on the way over to the cabin to pick up her things, I said, "So, what did you take?" The first couple of things she rattled off, which happened to be swimming and archery, had me harking back to my own childhood. But then she said, "CPR." And I said, "CPR," thinking why would an eight year old take CPR.

Then she got very serious and said--by this time we were in her cabin--"Lie down, I'll show you." And she did. This was the child who three years later when she was away at camp in NC with her little brother and he lost his spending money, she gave him all of hers so he could buy the moccasins he wanted. And she never looked back. That was how she was. At the time, I remember thinking that her having chosen CPR said it all. When that occurred to me, I was so struck I wrote a poem. Here's how it goes.

You Were Eight the Summer

You were eight the summer you showed me CPR,
How I find the ends of the ribs and count two fingers.
Your sure eyes and small hands told me you would
Save my life.
If I needed you, I had only to faint.
Oh my dear with the Red Cross book, if only
You could save my life.
If only you could save
With your fingers this quick morning,
The summer leaves that stop with the wind.

And she still hasn't changed. When I was having some problems this past year, I didn't even need to ask. There she was with her Red Cross book again, showing me what she'd learned.

Copyright 2007 Lola Haskins

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"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."