July 20, 1969 was a special day — it was one of the fourteen days per summer that I was a camper at Camp Indian Head. The camp’s fifty or eighty acres were for me a place of cavorting and mild wildness among the scrub oaks and black ponds of rural central Florida. I was nearly nine years old, and I was already a green-class swimmer, which meant that I could go out past the shallows for “red” class nonswimmers, rush through the mid-depth area for the “yellow” kids, and join the ranks of the brave and hardy greens, most of whom were older than I and were boys, at the floating dock, which had not only a diving board but a slide, which I could use as much as I wanted as long as the boys let the girls go on it. In other parts of camp life, I had been doing well at trampoline and had been sharing Frescas with friends at breaktimes for several days.
A day indoors at summer camp and a win for patriotism
That July morning (was it morning?) we had a special assembly, and instead of going outside to ride horses or paddle canoes or make leather things or play soccer or collect moss for campfires, we were told to sit on the floor and watch TV. In my memory there were hundreds of children sitting agape on that concrete floor, but I suppose really there were only a few dozen of us in that shaded, open-ended barn. There was a large (i.e., bigger than a breadbox) TV mounted above us, and on it for what seemed like an hour or more we watched the footage of a white bulbous object floating through dark gray space. There were a lot of men talking, and it was very boring, but then finally came the moment we’d been primed for: in blurry black and white, a large bulbous white foot emerged and ponderously made contact with dark gray moon-ground. It was slow and nondramatic, and I was astonished when everyone around me erupted into cheers. But then, they were my friends and fellow-campers, so after a few stunned seconds, I cheered too.
I understood, once again, that I was in the midst of Americans who were proud to be Americans, and that in some ways, I belonged with them, and I should be proud, too. Mostly, though, I wanted to go swimming.
BIO: Gillian Kendall left Florida at age 12, but returned at age 50. She hopes to make another, permanent escape before long. Http://www.gilliankendall.org
Gillian Kendall is an American-Australian writer who has lived in five countries and eight states. She has been a barmaid, editorial assistant, English professor, tech writer, and parliamentary reporter. She’s called herself a feminist ever since she heard the term at Douglass College, the women’s branch of Rutgers University. The label has gotten her into a few arguments and once landed her a job at "Mademoiselle." She lives in Florida and does all sorts of writing: travel and nonfiction journalism, as well as fiction, essays, and memoirs. gilliankendall.org