Posted at 10:04 am ET on June 15, 2021 |
It took me, prudently, four or five summers to acquire the sea foot of the night camp. First, I tried Girl Scout Camp, where we slept in tents and hiked what seemed like miles to the mess for each meal. Every night the same snake would come to visit our quad, and every night a counselor would throw it only at the edge of the woods, so he could easily come back every night to befriend our trembling, terrified selves, even curious nine-year-old. . I tried another nature camp the following year, and the following year, this one with a much more inclined towards craftsmanship. While I loved making my dad’s crooked coffee mugs, my mom’s floor cushions that we stuffed with newspaper and sewn around the edges, called sit-ups, I continued to have a few issues.
On the one hand, I suffered from insomnia. From a young age, our parents can wake up at 2 a.m. to find me lying under the dining room table memorizing the multiplication tables with all the lights on or, say, stuck between the washer and the the dryer trying not to think endlessly. There was also, of course, the snotty homesickness that I was experiencing, at all hours of the day, which seemed to come at the most inopportune times: archery lessons, mid tether ball game, while eating. s’mores.
Perhaps the trait that kept me from fully adapting to camp was my aversion to nature. (Part of my adult self needs you to know that this has been rectified a hundred times.) Starting in kindergarten, during recess, you might find me at the back of an empty classroom, drawing in black. Maybe it was my allergies or the fact that more than living in trees, I just loved living in my weird little brain. Once, on our biannual drive to see family in Louisiana, my older sister drew a scathing and unflattering caricature of me wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the phrase: I hate nature. She delivered it in the paper plane over the invisible partition we had agreed on that separated her side from mine.
Finally, in college, a teacher informed our class about a two-week summer program at the local college for gifted and talented children. My gifts and talents included, and were decidedly limited to, talking to the conductor of our class, receiving exactly no badges in the aforementioned Girl Scout troop, knowing all the words of Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline and wearing mismatched socks. , which for some reason didn’t stop them from accepting me.
I had heard of love at first sight and felt it fully after the first day of camp. Instead of trying my best to avoid the snakes, I got to read Gerard Manley Hopkins poems aloud in a circle. In music class, our instructor asked me to do an “I Got You Babe” duet with a cute deaf boy of the same tone. After dinner in a real air-conditioned cafeteria, our counselor took our girls room to the campus lake, fashioned wreaths of flowers for us while making 10,000 maniacs howl from her jam box.
Four years later, I had made lifelong friends and had found out just about everything there was to know about The Bell Jar and had also learned how to spend much of the year to dream of those two coveted weeks. I would have become a full-fledged evangelical camp just in time for the end of my term. As the second rising high school student, this was my last year eligible to attend, which coincided with our family’s unique summer trip to Italy and Ireland.
“It’s okay, I’m not going to Europe,” I told my parents who, oddly enough, conceded. I wasn’t ready to sacrifice a robotics class for, say, a week in Tuscany. On my 15th birthday, while lying in a dormitory with a single bed (I’ll never forget) a red t-shirt and fake Wal-Mart jams, my dad called from Ireland. “You won’t believe who we just saw play in a bar!” Ray Charles and Van Morrison! My two favorite singers.
I only cried for a minute before I got out of bed and walked over to the group, singing on the lawn. I have never regretted my decision and often wonder how, for the most part, I prefer adulthood to adolescence. But man, do I miss the camp. That’s why when I think of summer, I think of the possibility, how often something needs a lot of time, opportunity, and sun to become what it’s meant to be. That’s why I’m forcing my friends to rent a cabin in June, with lots of fried chicken, Spotify, crafts, with lots of kid eyes and hearts.
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