It would be two long months before the everyday sameness of summer would finally be eclipsed by the start of Grade Five.
It wasn’t hard to keep my mind off the impending school year. My parents were staunch believers in the summer camp concept, and so my sister and I were shuttled off to camps and activities – anything that would keep us from being at home during the day. Perhaps my parents secretly believed that keeping us busy to the point of exhaustion would render us too tired to cause trouble.
Windsurfing camp. Cycling camp. Orienteering camp. Camping camp. Swimming camp. Soccer camp. Basketball camp. Music camp. Art camp. With a typically East-European zeal, my father enrolled me in activities that stretched the mind and body, cultured and improved me. Everything had to have a deeper meaning. Everything had to make me a better person. Fun was irrelevant. Rebuilding the machine was paramount. If they had to pay good money to keep me out of trouble, it may as well make me a better person.
I came home spent every night. Spent by physical activity. Spent by mental activity, by the relentless friction of competition. The days flowed into each other, until I couldn’t remember what day of the week it was any more. It certainly kept us out of trouble. Often we were too tired to eat.
Worse still was the grind of socialization. I was picked first for
teams. People would sit with me at lunchtime, ask for my phone number so we could go to movies outside of camp hours. I won awards, was voted honors by my peers. Even though we were only nine, girls would giggle and try to catch my eye. I didn’t understand. This game had rules I couldn’t penetrate.
I was a stranger in a strange land. A goat amongst the sheep. Alien.
This seemingly eternal summer, unremarkable except for its busyness, gave no hint of what was to follow – the most remarkable school year of my life.