God, Summer Camp, and Talking in My Sleep

My Real Memoir

We’d finally arrived at big kid’s camp! Camp Osceola, amid the pines of Southern California’s highest mountains, was amazing. The moment we got off the bus, we were assigned to our cabins. We ran to our new homes, claimed our bunks, chose our group name, and then spelled it out in rocks outside!

My BFF Jeff and I bunked together. We’d had untold numbers of sleepovers, and apparently had adopted an unconscious language unique to us. The next morning, we were rudely awakened by laughter. The other boys were standing around guffawing. Apparently, they told us, Jeff and I had carried on a conversation in our sleep that went something like:

“Hey, Jeff, why buy marble tree?”

“Because plumber.”

“Ah, horse in my shoes.”

“Neato. Got mom with monster hammer?”

“Uh-huh. And twice meatballs.”

“Oh, OK, good, goo. Poot.”

Jeff and I did everything together. Except one. Inspired by endless sky and rocky peaks, I began hungering to commune with the infinite. The YMCA had a voluntary “Ragger” program, a de-militarized equivalent to Boy Scout merit badges. We were invited to make a voluntary vow, something secret between us and God. I decided to stop saying “bad words” I’d adopted in emulation of the “cool kids” I didn’t really want to be like anyway. We were given a colored scarf (“rag”) to wear as a symbol of our vow, and then led blindfolded to a holy place called Raggers Point, where we could sit and talk with God.

I still had no clue how to do that. So I looked at the view for awhile, and then made my oath to stop cussing, or at least say, “I’m sorry” each time I did it. No Monty Python-esque voice boomed out of the sky, “Gee, that’s swell, Mitch!” No cloudy animated finger wrote, “So happy to hear it!” Heck, I’d have even settled for gibberish, like the stuff Jeff mumbled when I asked him questions in my sleep! Nothing. Not even nonsense.

I went for another rag the following summer because I really liked the color, but I eventually learned to feed my hunger for the infinite with things like music, girls, and dreams of fame. Still, the longing never was never satisfied. Because, as it turned out, those things were only big enough for a me-shaped hole. They eventually started to rattle around and finally disappeared altogether into that infinitely larger…

God-shaped hole. 

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to God, Summer Camp, and Talking in My Sleep

  1. YMCA camp in Indiana is one of my favorite childhood memories. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I really like these episodes of memoir, Mitch. BTW, when you were at Osceola I was just down the road at Camp Tahquitz, the Boy Scout camp. Went there first as a camper and later as staff. I taught rowing and canoeing at Jenks Lake.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The closest I ever got to summer camp was Allan Sherman’s ode to Camp Grenada. Thanks, Mitch, for sharing your far more meaningful camp experience.

    Liked by 2 people

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  5. Love this! I was a church camp kid. And then a junior counselor. And then a staff counselor, a volunteer camp director, and eventually a program director. Alas, life took me in other directions and I wasn’t able to remain a camp kid forever, but those are some really special memories and so many great moments with God.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. K.L. Hale says:

    Mitch, I love your memoirs. I grew up going to church camp and then, at age 16, became a C.I.T. (It sounds very cool 😎 ~”Counselor-in-training). By the next summer I had a small group of my own. My sons attended the same camp I did. My youngest got into a fight at camp when he was about 7. He hated being called a “schmidget “ and there was a small boy there who was also being harassed. My little guy stood up for him. “Isn’t that what God wanted him to do?”, I was asked. I knew he was on his way to finding a God-only void. He still works on the delivery!

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Ann Coleman says:

    Camp can be such a meaningful experience! And I have often thought that one of the strongest arguments for the existence of God is that throughout history, humans have reached out for the divine. All those people can’t be wrong…..

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jennie says:

    I loved this! Summer camp holds many memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Chioma says:

    I love reading your stories…so inspiring. I’m glad you found divinity later on😁

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s the little things that means the most. Spending quality time with family and friends!


    Liked by 1 person

  12. gpavants says:


    Camp was always full of fun and opportunities to get closer to the Lord. I miss those simple days. In Christ,


    Liked by 1 person

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