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The success of Queen Neptuna.

Watch out, world! Make way for Queen Neptuna! This is a thought I have kept with me since I was eight years old. I was at summer camp--my first time away from home--in completely alien surroundings. After a trip through the Texas Hill Country, our arrival at this strange place evoked a scared feeling in the pit of my stomach. When my parents left me hoping for the best, I sadly walked away. I was already homesick knowing I would be there for six weeks. It sounded like a really long time.

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I missed my family and friends back home and cried into my pillow at night during my first week. I even sent several postcards to my parents on which I anxiously wrote, "I want to come home." But I began to adjust to the daily camp routine and the structured activities, and the fear of the unknown changed into enjoyment of what I knew each day would bring.

My worried parents came to camp with the intention of picking me up. When they arrived they saw campers carrying signs with crayon-colored letters: "Vote for DL," "Vote for Lingeria," "Vote for Diane."

I ran up to them, gave them a kiss and a hug, and they asked, "How are you doing?"

"Fine," I replied with a broad grin. Surprised to see me smiling, they asked about the signs. "Oh, I'm running for Queen Neptuna, Queen of the Water, and they don't know how to spell my name. "See ya! I have to go to horseback riding, and I'm riding English style," I proudly announced." And off I went.

My parents stood there shocked and slightly shaken, but nevertheless joyful and relieved.

As part of my "campaign" I surprised the campers by performing a Spanish dance with castanets at the talent show, dressed in my ruffled swimsuit and polished, black dance shoes. Later there was a voting day and the thrilling announcement that I had won. I was ceremoniously crowned with a coronet of Kleenex tissues and draped in a flowing, white tulle robe. Perched on a red velvet chair tied to a raft, I floated down the serene green waters of the Guadalupe River. A big sign placed behind me announced in glittering letters, "Deanna, Queen Neptuna." Two muscular, older boys from the neighboring boys' camp dressed like Indians paddled me down the river. No longer was it a distant land with undiscovered shores. I was comfortable there.

We landed on a pebbled river bank by a blazing campfire where an Indian maiden dressed in a fringed costume and moccasins sang an Indian love song. My parents were there and watched through tears of joy at the transformation of their little girl.

Reflecting back on that moment, there is a recollection of this little girl wanting to really be Queen Neptuna. It was a joyous sense of success. This beginning to my independence taught me to be courageous, accept new friends and treat them kindly, look forward to exciting and novel times, to know that others around me could help me through tough times, to feel confident, and reach for the stars. By sending me to camp, my wise parents unlocked in my soul a lifelong spirit of adventure and a desire for success.

This experience served me well growing up, as well as in my professional career. I realized I had developed skills to make friends and talents I could use to be successful. I was officer of several clubs at school, Football Sweetheart, president of the student council, and valedictorian. As an adult, I became a state administrator responsible for 2,000 employees and 72 offices in the Lower South Texas Region. The motto I had adopted, "success breeds success," was proven many times over.

My success at camp instilled in me an early desire to succeed at whatever I did in life. And now, 65 years later, I feel like I never lost that Queen Neptuna crown.

Photo courtesy of Camp Skyline Ranch, Mentone, Alabama.

Deanna L. Longoria is a retired regional administrator of the Texas Department of Human Services, Lower South Texas Region. She is an etiquette consultant specializing in children, teens, and young adults. As a young girl, she attended summer camp for three years.
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Title Annotation:A PLACE TO SHARE; camping experience
Author:Longoria, Deanna L.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2015
Words:713
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