My first introduction to summer camp was going with my parents to drop off my older siblings at summer camp. Oh how I wished I was older so that I, too, could stay but I was only five at the time. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a very long line of “if my brother and sister can do it, why can’t I” moments.
Parents and family were allowed to stay for dinner on the day of drop off so I was excited to at least get to eat in the mess hall. I had no idea what a mess hall was but we were away from home and I was surrounded by older, and therefore presumably cooler, kids so I was excited about the prospect.
I don’t remember what we had for dinner that night but I do remember that about ten minutes into the meal, one of the camp counselors started singing …
“Get your elbows off the table, Jimmy Brown. Get your elbows off the table, Jimmy Brown. We have seen you do it twice and it isn’t very nice; get your elbows off the table, Jimmy Brown.”
My five year old brain went from – oh singing, yay – to who is Jimmy – to what’s wrong with his elbows – before I could even realize that yes, my elbows were on the table too.
And then they came after me. Five year old, little ole me. My older siblings laughed as I sat there wide eyed, being called out for my bad table manners, but what five year old even realizes they have bad table manners? I was so horrified and embarrassed that I’m sure my innocent cheeks suddenly turned fifty shades of guilty red.
How was this supposed to help my manners? I don’t remember making a mental note at the time to try and keep my elbows off the table, but I do remember trying to keep the tears from rolling down my hot, flushed cheeks.
But in the end, the point they were trying to make obviously got across. After all, I’m writing about it today and even now, whenever I notice that my elbows are indeed on the table, I slowly withdraw them to my sides, just waiting for someone to start singing that old familiar tune.