This time of year always makes me feel like I should be just getting back from sleepaway camp in New England (school started later when I was a kid), sunburned and hoarse from crying because I will miss my camp friends because they're my BFFs and my school friends suck but I know the camp girls will be my true friends forever because we shared everything.
Yeah. Never saw them again. I did run into a camp counselor once at the mall, but I called her by her camp nickname (Sniper) and then was all embarrassed because that wasn't her name and it wasn't camp and she wasn't supposed to be at the mall, she was supposed to be teaching us how to make god's eye crosses on popsicle sticks and singing rounds of "I Wish I Was a Buzzard."
The first time my parents sent me away to summer camp I cried for a week and they made a special exception to let me talk to my mom on the phone every night (I was SEVEN, for crying out loud. A seven-year-old WEENIE). But then I made friends and the counselors all liked me and let me sit with them and listen to their grownup (teenage) secrets so I knew all about who liked whom and who did it with whom (this is back when I thought "did it" meant kissing).
The next year or the year after that, I was happy to be away from home and the kids who returned from the previous year had a bond that wasn't shared by the new campers and we were mean to them, just as others had been mean to us for our first week. The food was disgusting, the Kool-Aid was called "bug juice," and I hated forced recreation with a mad passion, but I loved the cliques and allegiances and the whispering in the middle of the night after lights out. I loved the drama of screeching hello on the first day, and of sobbing goodbye on the last.
Even a month after school started, I'd still get a lump in my throat if I happened to pick up a pair of shorts with my friend Shelley's name label sewn in (the real BFFs traded clothing) because I missed her and she hadn't written me like she promised. I hadn't written like I promised either, but she promised first.
I wish there was a sleepaway camp for grownups.
Sing it with me now (molto adagio):
Hmmm, and come September
Hmmm, I will remember
Hmmm, our camping days and friendships true
Hmmm, and as the years go by
Hmmm, I'll think of you and sigh
Hmmm, this is good-night and not good-bye...