I’ve always said that I’m lucky enough to have two homes and two families: my actual blood family and home here in Indiana and my camp family in North Carolina. Both have made me the girl I am today.
In the most recent issue of Outside magazine, Mondamin, Green Cove’s brother camp, is named one of five “Camps That Kick Ass” in the country. Hello, I knew this, but I’m so glad my favorite place is getting recognition besides the obviously-biased article I wrote in Jack and Jill. Blue Ridge Now did a write-up of the article in Outside magazine. Here’s a short quote from the write-up.
More than 60 percent of the camp’s counselors are former campers and many of Mondamin’s boys are second- or third-generation campers, [Robert] Danos [activity director] said.
“We can tell parents who are shopping for camps when they ask how do you know these kids so well, it’s because we’ve helped raise them,” Danos said.
That literally made me almost cry. (OK, I’m very camp-sick right now considering the time of year, let’s keep that in mind…) It’s just so true. Camp helped raise me, from the ages of 11 to 23. I cannot wait to send my kids to camp there. It’s this amazing tradition and this incredible amount of caring and sense of family. All of that is what makes camp the place it is. A home away from home and a second family.
Last night I called Bette via Skype for the first time since she’s been in Ireland. We’ve talked online but nothing is quite the same as a phone conversation with her. We talked about absolutely nothing for an hour and a half and the only reason we hung up was because I had to call Adam back. We spent a good half hour browsing pictures on Green Cove’s website from Early June camp. Some of the first year counselors there were campers when we were on staff. That, friends, is odd. The girls at that session are so little and adorable. They wear huge hiking boots and big tshirts and riding helmets to meals.
I think we then spent another half hour discussing how much it would cost me to drive down to camp. Between gas and wear and tear cost on the car, it’s quite a bit. Figuring out how much I would spend on gas took us a pathetic 15 minutes I’m sure. We basically had to set up a word problem. If gas costs $4 a gallon right now, my trip is 494 miles and my car gets 27 mpg, how much will gas cost for my whole trip? We are poor mathematicians. I like that I have a friend who I can call up for no reason other than just chatting and end up talking to for hours. Actually, most of my good friends are like that. I’ve had countless long and random conversations with Marnie and Sam too. That is true friendship.
I am having an inner conflict regarding my living situation. My apartment does not have air. My kitchen is tiny. I have no backyard for Mira to run around in. It takes me forever to get places because of downtown traffic and weirdo streets and stoplights. I live in a small pocket of decency in what might be described as a somewhat ghetto area of town. On the flip side, I do live very close to lots of downtown happenings and events. I can ride my bike to most said events. Walking on the canal is lovely. I do have a lot of the necessities (grocery, post office, cleaners, etc) within five minutes of my apartment.
Either way, I’ve started browsing apartment and house listings even though my lease doesn’t end until November. I have a little dream that involves a house with a big kitchen, a dishwasher and garbage disposal, air conditioning and a fenced in backyard. Bette claims that I’m nesting. I say it’s my goddamn biological clock trying to tell me it’s time to settle down, start a family, blah blah. My clear and rational mind knows how ridiculous that all sounds. As if I am anywhere close to being ready for anything that resembles a family beyond the dog and boyfriend “family” I have right now. I hate being a female.
First things first – it is insanely stuffy and hot in my apartment. not so hot outside at the moment but in here, yes. Possibly a result of the oven being on while I made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Regardless, I have my fan pointed directly at me and on high.
Second things second. Last weekend Adam, Mira and I went to Lake Monroe for a few days to hang out and fish a little on his parents boat. Being outside and away from the city (I know “city”, right? As if Indianapolis is a huge bustling metropolis) did wonders for me. That weekend everyone arrived at camp for orientation so the potential for me to sit and wallow in I-miss-camp-pity was very, very high. But the most amazing thing happened. I didn’t want to be at camp once, not for one minute. Even when Mary texted me that she was at the Black Rose, a bar we frequented in Hendersonville. As Adam and I sat on the boat and looked at the stars I realized that I’m incredibly happy right here. This, referring back to a previous post where I wondered if, even though I’m generally happy with my life now, I would always want to be somewhere else too. I don’t want to be anywhere else but here. I’m home and even though I miss everywhere I’ve been and called home in the past and all my friends in those places, here and now is so good. This might be the best feeling ever. Not to say that I don’t have shitty days where I want to crawl under the covers and never come out, but I do come out. A few quick pics from our lake trip.
Me and Mirabelle on the boat
Adam making our bbq chicken dinner
Third things third. Last night Sam and I attended the most bizarre party we’ve been to in awhile. It was something like a dream. My friend Elizabeth is an intern at the magazines and lives downstairs in my building. The party was a housewarming party she threw. The crowd was, generally speaking, all under 21, including a 15 year old. Now, I am not being condescending here. Oh my God I am so much older than these kids. They just seemed so young. In attendance was a girl who I’ll call MK. She was everything that, two years ago, I would have longed to be. She was effortlessly cool, wearing a black tshirt, a brown fringed jacket and tight dark jeans and discussing how she doesn’t pay for spices at the store, eats donuts and doesn’t pay for them, and carries her lighter between her breasts and down her shirt. I literally would have watched her all night and been intensely jealous and completely judgmental of her in my insecurity and lack of self confidence. Last night I watched her and smiled because her coolness is not effortless, but quite the opposite. Part of me wanted to judge her, just out of habit. At one point everyone gathered around a piece of meat, called star meat, and performed a ritual. Star meat seemed to be meatloaf in the somewhat shape of a star with sprinkles and candles stuck on it. They all stood around the lit up meat and chanted “star meat star meat!” until MK, who was in charge, shushed them all, at which point they blew out the candles and ate the meat. Weird. Like I said, a somewhat dreamlike night that reminded me of what I used to wish I had and was and of how happy I am that I somehow found my self confidence between then and now. Anyway I’m glad that Sam was there with me because the whole night was something of a flashback to Bloomington and our neighbors senior year.
End of story.
Well, I’m feeling brave tonight. Plus I don’t think very many people read this blog. I’m going to post something I’ve written. I’ve passed it (and a few other things) around to a few of my friends for opinions because I’m thinking of sending some stuff to magazines and/or literary journals. So, I figure if I really want to be a writer, people will have to read what I write. I mean that is the point. So here’s a sample. I will say that what I write about most frequently is camp because of the impact it has had on me over the years. I can honestly say that I would not be half the woman I am today without Green Cove. Anyway, please comment, I love constructive criticism. The title is in the title of this post:)
Tom Petty sang, “I feel summer creeping in and I’m tired of this town again.” If summer creeps in as it does, evenings slowly heating up, days becoming thicker, then so does autumn. It slips into summer like two people holding hands, fingers entwining. Cool nights mix with still hot days. Leaves start to fall and make the air smell damp and crunchy. The breeze no longer carries the smell of fresh cut grass and cookouts. Certain things signal the ending of summer creeping up. The sun sets sooner which leaves less time after dinner to play barefooted outside. Fireflies flicker less frequently. Just as certain are the signs of an oncoming autumn. Aisles overflow with notebooks, pencils and folders at Target and Wal-Mart. Kids proudly sport back-to-school shoes, clothes and haircuts.
I’ve always had one sure sign of summer’s end and the beginning of autumn. Camp ends. Every August I drive, or flew as occasion had it, out of the mountains and away from my summer. I leave behind me a million memories, new friends, a t-shirt and a few socks, and a piece of me that, no matter how hard I try, never sees the cornfields of Indiana. My southern mountain girl stays at The Cove and waits until I return the next summer to the place when the fireflies flicker over the lake and the stars fill the endlessly huge mountain sky. I’ve spend countless hours trying to get that part of me to return home. I manage to bring mold back in my trunk, photos on my camera, and plane letters in my bag but something of who I am, the young woman who confidently directed her counselors, encouraged her campers, scheduled and taught endless lessons never sees the real world. Neither did the girl who didn’t glance in the mirror before she left the cabin, who sang too loudly and off key, who hugged her best friends often and didn’t hold back. People always tell me that I’ve changed at the end of the summer when I return to real life. I know it too. I just wish that my parents, my friends, everyone out here who might doubt me, could see who I am when I am truly in my element.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve broken up with someone when I think about camp. We spent all these wonderful years together, I grew and learned with camp and became me because of camp. I spent my best years with camp. Then, one day I realized that it was time to move on. I unwillingly saw that we needed our distance. We’ll still always be friends and someday I know we’ll be together again. It was just time, no matter how hard that is for me to admit.
In a little over a month a group of young men and women will gather in the mountains on the shores of Lake Summit and begin orientation. They will prepare for the summer of a lifetime. some will be returning to their home. Others will be venturing into a new and strange land, filled with traditions they can’t understand yet and a language all of its own. I very much long to be part of those young men and women. I want to drive down the entrance road with my windows open, the small of the summertime mountains wafting into my car. When I get out I want to see my best friends, sing camp songs and hear the bell. This is a very difficult break up. I constantly want to get back together despite the fact that I know better.
I’ve been having a lot of trouble imagining summer without camp. Two years ago I was at camp for only the month of June and, not counting that month, that was the worst summer on record. I’m honestly a little scared. That sounds kind of extreme, but hey it’s true. Good thing I have a white board full of summer fun in Indianapolis activities to keep me busy. I have plans to learn how to fish on a boat at a lake (which I will jump into fully clothed just for good measure) and then take my new fishing skills to the woods to go camping. I might even learn how to play golf. I’ll walk on the canal, listen to live jazz, have picnics, and ride segways. I know that everything will be ok because I have this support system here at home that will make it easy for me to enjoy my summer.
A tiny part of me still wishes that I was slowly gathering up my camping stuff, my oldest tennis shoes, my rattiest t-shirts and packing it into my old and worn trunk and driving down to the mountains where the rhododendron grow.
I’d like to think I’d want to be here. There is absolutely no reason why here wouldn’t be the first place I’d choose right now. I’m disgustingly happy most of the time. My friends are silly, great drinking buddies, fabulous listeners and excellent email writers. My job is fun, challenging and exciting. My apartment is covered in tiny black hairs thanks to my puppy. I’m riding again, which makes me indescribably happy. My boyfriend, when he puts his arms around me I feel completely safe and content.
OK fine, so stop rubbing it in my face, you say. Here’s the thing – if you came up to me right now and asked me that question, If you could be anywhere, where would it be – my answer would not be right here. First instinct, easy. Camp. I want to be there every single day. I want to be in the middle of summertime in the mountains with my Green Cove girls, not having showered in three days and feeling clean. Next I might say Bloomington. I miss our porch, I miss Sam and Marnie always being a room away, I miss our smelly neighbors, I miss classes and campus, I miss IUET, silly crushes, not so silly crushes, beer at 2pm, and yes even Jimmy John’s. I’d say Raleigh lastly because that’s where I found myself and I might have left a little bit of the old me there when I moved home. I want to be roommate’s with Bette again and work at the coffeeshop. I want to go to Chapel Hill for Shabbat dinner. I want to ride Clyde with Hilary. I want southern accents, Harris Teeter and sweet tea.
So what if we are never happy where we are? What if, despite everything, a little part of us longs to be somewhere else? I always thought I was lucky to have two homes, here and camp, and that’s still true. I just wonder if it’s possible to be content where you are and miss everywhere you’ve been at the same time.
the sign of a true friend
- she offers to let you borrow her underwear when you’ve forgotten yours
- she says if she gets her own place first you can totally…you know…bring guys over
- she comes to get you at 6AM the morning after a late night to take you to your car so you can drive home to your family emergency
- she’s there for you after she tried to warn you about him and never says “i told you so”
- she’s there for you when you get it right the second time
- she reassures you that you’re not trashy when you’re certain that you are
- she has late night hot pocket eating/kitchen floor posing sessions with you
- you im each other from down the hall. or even better when in the same room
- she laughs at you when you do stupid things like pee in your pants but she never tells anyone
- you can tell her even your most embarrassing thoughts without your face turning red
- sometimes you hate her, but most of the time you love her
- you can call her for no reason at all and end up talking for an hour
- you’ve read your diaries out loud to each other and died laughing at what they say
- she’s been your pee buddy, whether it’s in the woods or because the bathroom door is open
- she knows without asking that when you got home from the bars you ordered the big 10 from pizza express
- she’s warded off unwanted romantic attention your manager showered on you. countless times.
i will be corny and happy that i have the most lovely girls ever.