Saturday, August 16, 2008

Camp memories

My brother came by last week. We had a great chat about the camp we both went to as kids. The same camp my mom had attended as a teenager. I had missed a reunion and wanted to hear about all the folks I hadn't seen in so long. I realized as we were talking how important some of those memories were to me. I also realized my experiences were far different from his. He stayed on much longer than I did and moved into the mysterious realm of "counselor". I started when I was very young and my mom was camp nurse. I never had the experiences with the romances, parties and subculture of young adult friendships. Later when I sat down in my studio to work, instead of painting or some other project, I really felt like writing. I let the memories flow and as they started to manifest on paper, things long forgotten started to bubble to the surface. Here is what I wrote that night:

Camp Nimrod for Girls

White skorts, white shirts, white sandals, the strong smell of bug spray, the itch of grass on the back of my legs, the geode that was rumored to be a fallen star and a Sunday evening sunset….Vespars.

Dust, sweat, the smell of hay and horses, the creak of leather, the soft felt on my hat, a small white pony who owned my six year old heart~Paulette, the evil eye pendant on my neck, jodphers, boots and the Goshen show….riding lessons

A steep path down, clinging to the rail, tripping over roots, the smell of earth meeting crystal clear water, the clink of buddy tags hitting the board, the bang~clang~sway~dip walking down the floating docks, that first cold heavenly rush as you hit the water, the smooth curve of river rocks under your feet…the Cow Pasture River

A medicinal smell that can’t be described (perhaps a mixture of rubbing alcohol, just opened bandaids and cough syrup), metal cabinets filled with mysterious vials and cotton balls, orange Methialate drawings on scraped shins and knees, wasps nests in the closet on the back porch, and my home base…the infirmary

The slam of a wooden door, big green adirondack chairs on the porch, sitting on the railing, snacks and ice cold glass bottle sodas in the back room, an Eagle painted on a wooden plaque, grown ups laughing and talking…the office.

The wonderful smell of food, a letter home to get in on Sunday (and being a little confused why I had to do it when my mom was next door in the infirmary?!), long tables, surrounded by friends, laughter, a quick finger to the side of the nose or you run around the table pig, a napkin to tell the tale of a girl who could not pay the rent…daily meals in the nest

The walk from the rec hall with beams of flash lights swinging across the path, gathering at the flag pole, singing “Green trees around me….hearts beating true as Camp Nimrod says good night to you” arms crossed swaying, looking up from the circle of campers to see the circle of trees swaying as well, taps, jumping in your bunk ~no covers~ too hot, waking in the middle of the night curled in a ball freezing in the damp air…bedtime on a mountain

A complete and utter hush and stillness just before Revelry blasted out, the smell of toothpaste messages written on screens, the rush to get ready, the run to the flag pole to see whose underwear would be on display…the start of a another great day

Camping out at Pots Springs, floating candles down the river, being afraid of small snappish black and brown dogs, plastic lace braided lanyards, name tags sewn on all my clothing, an old trunk painted lavender, and memories of never wanting summer to end…Camp Nimrod for Girls
When I was done I realized how fortunate I was to have such memories, how many amazing people had influenced my life at an early age...and I felt that familiar ache for a mother I miss so dearly, the one who allowed me the freedom to run off and be a camper but was always there if I needed a quick hug or some methialate on a scraped knee. As far as I'm concerned I had the best of both worlds.

1 comment:

Lisa Hensley said...

You got it just right, Sarah Jane -- right down to the toothpaste on the screens and the sounds of Green Trees!