The five-night camp cost $25.
I’d grown up at Pālama Settlement, currently took piano and swimming.
For $5 a day, my parents, not bargaining on the outcome, rushed me to the bus pick-up point,
enthusiastically thrusting me into the camp experience that would transform us all.
For $5 a day, my parents were nowhere to be seen for the first time in my life.
For $5 a day, I was welcomed into the brother and sisterhood
of housing project kids for whom $25 might be hard to come by.
For $5 a day I washed loads of dishes morning, noon, and night,
raked leaves, mopped floors, scrubbed toilets.
And most life-changing of all, for $5 a day, I joined in raucous nightly sing-alongs,
campfire-warm and S’more’d with my new family, some of whom had brought ‘ukuleles.
I learned lyrics to many Hawaiian and *Hapa-Hawaiian songs I’d never heard before.
And so much more.
When we piled off the bus, singing mightily all the way back, I ran to my parents’ arms.
I’d been a bit homesick, missed them more than I’d expected.
It warmed my heart to be part of my own family again, although I knew I’d miss my new one.
And then, for $5 a day, the swearing began.
My bursting new vocabulary bank astonished my folks.
For $5 a day, I sprinkled our conversations with curse words and anatomical references,
would spontaneously break into song about those same body parts,
intimate relations, and all manner of things that impressed them further.
Then, at no charge, they began behavior modification, reining me in from
sailor- to okay-in-public-level language and operatic exhibition.
I can’t speak for Alan Sherman and Camp Grenada,
about which he writes his muddah and faddah to complain, yet ultimately praise,
but for only $5 a day, Camp Pālama Uka turned out to be a seminal life experience for me.
While I recall only snatches of the songs, those warm words and phrases still sustain me.
*Hawaiian songs with English lyrics