The signed pillowcases at the end of summer, S.W.A.K., morning lineup, shower caddies, running out of hot water, borrowing one another’s clothes, playing HA beneath a tree, tired from soccer drills. Collecting mustard packets, dipping carrots into mustard, anything to make the calories go further. Doing sign and backs, realizing I was near the end by the houses that punctuated the journey, looking down as I walked uphill because it made it easier. Putting my face in the lake. The schedules, our days planned, braiding hair and lanyards. Secrets and mix tapes and workouts.
Learning how to use a punching bag. Doing a chin up. Seeing my collarbones. Trips to the mall! Calling everything but camp “civilization.” Returning home to television, your own bathroom, privacy and wall-to-wall carpeting. Getting ready for dinner, shower hour, passed notes between activities. Walks back to the cabin just before curfew, standing, waiting beneath the trees for him to kiss me. Reading those same sentences over and over, carrying his note in my pocket and smiling again and again knowing it’s there. Trying harder on the field if I thought he might be watching. Sore muscles. Becoming red-faced and sweaty knowing “it’s working.”
Sunday Brunches. Capture the flag. Mealtimes, bitching about the hills, the heat, and the bugs. Skin So Soft. Field trips. The track. Watching the boys play hockey. Watching them watch us. Co-ed softball. Color war. Crickets, movie nights, rainy days. Mudslides and showering in the rain.
Creating time capsules, thinking the only thing that mattered was that summer. Insisting you saw a bat or heard a raccoon. Variety shows, skit nights, choreography. Singing into brush handles, blowing cabin fuses with too many hair dryers at once. Being a girl, growing into my own, through letters home, in a summer, becoming someone no one else knew and living up to it.
Tether ball, N.I.C.E.T.R.Y. that’s the way we spell nice try. Side out and rotate in volleyball. Snacks in the shade. Flavored lipgloss, peach oil, and anklets. Water shoes. Never seeing any “nature” on the nature trail. Growing into a woman, feeling wanted, flirting, the attention. Walking on grass, following paths, the camaraderie, the raids, feeling independent. Freshly mowed grass. Living sans-parents. Wooden floors, worn by years. Seeing how many lengths of the pool I could hold my breath. Camp songs. Reuniting, wondering how people think you look. His Fahrenheit cologne.
Going with a counselor to collect the mail after lunch. Rest hour and letter writing, living for packages and mail. The wet grass in the morning. Double knotted sneakers. Running caterpillar drills. Visiting day weekend. Homesick. Bunk beds and raids. Flashlights and campfires, finding a good stick for your marshmallow (your 1 goddamn marshmallow). Eating with chopsticks. Apache relays. Getting to know you activities, sitting in circles beneath trees. Water balloon fights on hot days. Matty’s Run. Mosquitoes and windbreakers. Gummy rain boots and ponchos. Morning wake-up calls, always colder than you’d imagined. Inter-camp competitions. The black food market. Kids sneaking smokes behind the cabin. Learning that a counselor got fired for dating a camper.
I loved camp, fat camp, despite all the bad habits I learned. Despite how obsessed it might have made me, I’d go back in a second.