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Autism: Whaler Seats and Round Caps

22 Apr

Standing at attention, on the parade square, wiggling my feet as I had been taught to avoid fainting (how embarrassing that would have been.) My legs are itchy. My arms are itchy. My head… stinging. Bad headaches. Every time. Hard to be still. So uncomfortable. Is this ever going to end?

Year after year, I wonder how they do it. Yet I do it, too, but the cost is high. They don’t seem to notice. Things don’t seem to bother them like they do me. I would know. I should know. They talk. They would have said something. But of course, I never do.

My face is pale. Of course they notice that. They send me to the infirmary, afraid I will faint, and bang my head on the blacktop. I never fainted. Not once. But those headaches… the itching I could not ignore… they never knew of those.

How hard it was to endure, but endure I did. I loved it there. Okay… I didn’t like the games. I didn’t like having to sleep in the same room with 20 or so other girls. I really hated public bathrooms (a large part of the reason I was sick most of those summers.) But I did love camp. I did love Sea Cadets. And year after year I returned. Four years at summer camp – twice in Ontario, twice in BC, and one summer in England. Five years of cadets, and I loved it.

Then there were the whalers. Large metal boats, with row after row of hard metal seating, and big heavy oars. I didn’t mind rowing. Really I didn’t. But these were ocean boats, and sitting on those hard metal seats, soaked with salt water… itchy. Unbearably itchy. That is what I remember most. Not the pain of rowing – that became routine… soothing. But hours of sitting on salt water? Torture! Yet none of the other girls seemed to notice.

And the food? Okay, everyone complains about camp food, right? But my problem was more with my stomach than with the actual food. I don’t take change well. It isn’t just a mind thing, but my body protests it also. And then I had allergies that hadn’t yet been proven – but try explaining to your P.O that you can’t eat the macaroni they just handed you after saying, “no switching – you eat what you are given!”

I couldn’t play the games. I fell asleep in the classes – I can’t function on so little sleep, though no one else seemed to have a problem. I was terrified of the cold water, yet happily climbed to the top of the mast on the tall ship. And in the group photos, why was I the only one squinting so bad? They were facing the same way I was, how come their eyes weren’t on fire?

Different. Always different. Never belonging. Never understood. Yet cadet camp? I loved it there!

JLH

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