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Years ago my good friend Isabel gave me The Autobiography Box: A Step-by-Step Kit for Examining the Life Worth Living by Brian Bouldrey. I love the gift, side effects but beginning to write an autobiography or memoir, treatment even as a writing exercise, felt odd when I was barely in my mid 20s. (If only Girls was around back then…) Still, I liked the prompts and opened the box once in a while when I organized my desk. Each time, I’d think I should tackle some of the topics. Anyway, I’d like to write more and perhaps this box can help.
First up, chosen sort of at random:
Write about the first time you went away from home alone. Was it a vacation? Was it for work? Were you looking for something? Were you running away? Do you see that excursion as a “hero’s journey,” or did you go kicking and screaming? How did it change you?
I’m not sure I’ve truly ever been away from home alone. Totally alone. Sure, I’ve traveled on my own, but even then there was always something familiar there. I stayed with friends or visited family.
Still, I do know the first time I went somewhere without my parents or siblings: Girl Scout camp.
El Potrero Girl Scout campground is only a couple hours away by bus, but it felt far. Before going to camp, I’d never even heard of Lake Elsinore.
I don’t remember much about the bus trip aside from the scorched terrain along the mountainside. The trees were bare and dirt was black. I don’t remember if there were brush fires or the fire department had preemptively burned off the dry brush.
I wasn’t alone on this trip. There were a couple other girls from my troop attending the space-themed camp that summer. I also remember being excited to find a couple of notes from my mom packed with my things.
I really liked being away at camp. I remember feeling like a kid from the movies. We stayed in tents, did arts and crafts and ate trail mix. It was the first time I heard the term GORP (good old raisins and peanuts). We took hikes and slept under the stars at night. We had campfires, sang “Kumbaya” and freaked out over creepy things — a toilet flushing on it’s own.
There were things I didn’t like. Some of the girls were a bit catty and mean. I also got stung three times by wasps on the nose, arm and thumb. Everyone got stung by a wasp at least one, but I think I was the only one unlucky enough to get stung on the nose and develop a huge red welt.
Gee mom I want to go
But they won’t let me go
Gee mom I want to go home
From Girl Scout camp
I didn’t stay in Girl Scouts much longer after going away to camp. I don’t know if it happened that summer or the next summer, but there was a bus accident involving Girl Scouts going to camp.