Mission: Care Package Rescue

by Holly Ford

My first and only attempt at breaking and entering was a mission for munchies. The target: the camp Trading Post. This tiny wooden shed sitting in the heart of camp held all that was sugary, salty and sacred to preteen girls deprived of junk food but once a day. Only after rest hour could we partake in our choice of those treats we took for granted back home: Cheetos, Snickers, Cherry Coke, M&Ms, Now and Laters, salt and vinegar chips. They were all under lock and key until snack time each day. And despite a budding caffeine addiction, I had resigned myself to relish my once-a-day soda...until it came.

It was bigger than a breadbox and was postmarked "Marietta, GA." I lugged it to the porch of the big house (aka the camp office) where I was immediately surrounded by girls I’d known since my arrival two weeks prior, along with a few I’d never seen before. They had all gathered to get a glimpse of the treasure I held in my hands—a care package. I threw the Snoopy card it contained aside and put my hand through the packing peanuts, right into the foil that held a moist, chocolately mass of homemade brownies. Beyond those was a one-pound bag of Oreos, a 25-count package of Bubble Yum, a box of Twinkies, apple-flavored Blow Pops and, at the bottom, a toothbrush. Mom had gotten my letters.

I was happily doling out brownies to my acquired fans when Brutus (a counselor who later became a member of the WWF, I believe) made a booming entrance. "Hand them over," she scowled. "All of it?" I asked. The crowd shuffled their feet in disgust. "You can keep one pack of gum," she said. "And the toothbrush." The rest of my good stuff was carried away, back into the office cavern where it would be devoured by the greedy "old" leaders we called counselors.

Of course I knew we weren’t supposed to get food in our care packages. And today I realize this was a rule made to maintain equality amongst the ranks. But back then I was crushed to have a gift of such splendor snatched away before my very eyes. With the taste of milk chocolate still lingering in my retainer, I huddled under the blanket of my bottom bunk with a few eyewitnesses of the afternoon’s atrocity. We plotted our escape (shoes would be worn to bed to ensure a quick exit); we planned our route (tiptoe past Big Dipper cabin, stick close to the grass along the gravel road, along the edge of the lake away from the streetlights and across the bonfire pit); and organized our supplies (one flashlight, a bobby pin, four camp-issued navy blue sweatshirts and one empty pillow case for the goods).

At 10 p.m., one hour after lights-out and 55 minutes after our raven-haired CIT sunk into her beauty slumber, I gave the signal. One cough, a clear of the throat and two sniffles set my brave troop into action. Caroline came from overhead, carefully placing one long, narrow shoe at a time on the wooden trunk beside me. Anne and Frenchie tried to dismount simultaneously from their side-by-side bunks and knocked heads on their way to the floor. They doubled over in laughter, but luckily, no one stirred. I slid an empty pillowcase from under my covers, grabbed the flashlight from under my bed and crept quickly out of the cabin.

Safely outside, we latched our arms together to stifle our nervous jitters and set out down the mountain. I was the leader of this little crime circus because it had been my package, but I was in no shape to take charge. My eyes wouldn’t blink, my ears were ringing and my bladder was doing its best to eject the 5 glasses of sweet tea I drank at supper. But surprisingly our approach was going according to plan. Big Dipper was silent. The road was empty and the only run-in we had at the lake was with some extremely boisterous toads.

When the Trading Post was in sight, I turned off my flashlight and we took turns making a break across the bonfire pit. Crouching in the shadow of the tiny shed, I looked into the wide eyes of my cohorts. "I can’t believe nobody saw us," I said. "Who has the bobby pin?" Caroline looked at Anne; Anne looked at Frenchie; Frenchie looked at Caroline; and then they all looked back at me. "I brought the flashlight and the pillowcase," I said. "How are we supposed to pick the lock without a bobby pin?" My head fell to my hands in defeat and my stomach let out a defiant growl.

Then, in a voice as sweet and as country as peach cobbler, lanky Caroline said, "I bet I could fit through that window." Our eyes shot to the stars, and sure enough, there was a window. I assumed the stance I’d learned in cheerleading class and Caroline climbed on my legs, my shoulders and then my head before she reached the window’s ledge. With a push of the glass, the window opened. Caroline slipped her left arm inside up to the shoulder and then her head. She saw the foil wrappers twinkling, the red soda cans glowing but they were way beyond her reach. The only thing close enough to touch was the resting place of a black spider the size of a giant Jawbreaker.

The spider made a move to protect its web and Caroline did a rain dance on my head. She came thundering down and from my bladder came a shower. I couldn’t stop it. And I couldn’t stop the laughter. On our walk of shame back to cabin Rainbow, we walked the entire route in plain sight along the gravel road. We sang our favorite Def Lepperd song at a whisper. And we blew giant bubbles of strawberry Bubble Yum.

Making A Care Package

For kids at sleep-away camp, care packages are just that -- a little reminder that the folks back home are thinking about them. Sending a box full of their favorite goodies would be easy enough but since most camps discourage sending sweets, check out the following suggestions (some practical, some fun) for ensuring a happy camper.

Card games like Old Maid or Uno
Stationary & stamps
Photos of pets & family
Word jumble puzzles
A taped recording of you reading his or her favorite bedtime story
Bubble gum (enough to share)
Favorite stuffed animal
A new CD

Holly Ford is an Atlanta native and a graduate of the University of Georgia. She's worked in the offices of Mademoiselle, Rolling Stone Online and Creative Loafing Atlanta, and has had articles published in these and other national and regional publications. She currently resides with her husband and mutts, Hank and Stella, in Dyke, VA.

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