Sunday, August 03, 2008

Childhood is calling

I went to summer camp only once when I was a kid. But that one week spent in the middle of nowhere among girls from all over the U.S. has stuck with me tighter than all the glue we used to affix that macaroni to construction paper during our arts and crafts class.

The smell of insect repellent conjures up memories of those long hikes through the flat Illinois woods — where our teenage counselor repeatedly scolded, "Stay on the trail! Your parents will KILL me if I send you home with poison oak!!!" We didn't listen, of course, because there was far too much to see off the beaten path.

A crackling fire transports me back to that night I sat by a warm campfire and enjoyed my first S'mores, chocolate dripping down my white T-shirt. I didn't care because I was eating a little slice of heaven, and besides, what does a little girl know about the pains of stain removal?

Oh, and who could forget one's first encounter with a latrine? How could it be that we didn't have running water for our toilets? Myself as an 8-year-old was quite horrified at the notion of what lurked below me in those stalls. I would hold it until I just about burst — just to avoid the dreaded latrines.

I learned a lot about myself at that camp. For instance, lakes are just not my thing. And I would still put up a holy fight, much like the one I unleashed on an unsuspecting counselor, if someone ever tells me to swim the length of one again.

I also learned that girlfriends are deeply important. Our common bonds unite us on many levels, and knowing that you've got someone who shares in both your joys and pains is more than comforting — it's heart-warmingly magical.

I don't know why I never went back to summer camp. We moved around a lot when I was younger, so I'm guessing it had something to do with never being in one place for long. But I would give just about anything to pack up and head off to camp again.

As dorky as it may seem, sing-a-longs, arts and crafts, nature hikes and S'mores sound like the making of a perfect get-away to me.