Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Campy

Sun In and lemon juice. Kickball counting as sport. Champion sweatshirts and ugly Umbro shorts. Boys who smell like heavy cologne swiped from their fathers. Moldy swimsuits drying on the line. Fights with girlfriends that made you cry.

This was camp. It always amazes me how many rich, textured emotions can be conjured up from camp memories. Some of my best friends are from camp. So are my worst fights, heartbreaks, and overreactions.

I often wonder when and if I will send Chloe to camp. I recently alerted a co-worker, whose 13 year old was going to camp for the first time, that alot of kissing goes on there. That was not so nice of me. And not so true, either, since camp for me at 13 was a whole lotta jacks playing, pizza eating and frizz sporting, and no smooching -- yet.

When I graduated Brandeis and thoughtlessly landed in NYC, I dated a few of acquaintences from camp. While these relationships went nowhere (nowhere bad, just nowhere), I realize now how badly I hungered for a "summer boyfriend" all year round in the huge new city where boys at bars seemed terrifying and Brandeisians were just as unappealing as ever. I was young and very afraid of the City, replete with nightmare bosses and fights with roommates and nothing I could afford. The camp boyfriend seemed like an ideal way to create comfort within madness.

And it worked, for a while. Dating a guy from camp felt as good as a worn in sweatshirt. Even if I did not know him well then, he created an instant connection with an understanding of a shared social sphere from way back when, and what the hebrew words for "garbage" and "porch" were. The camp boyfriend had immediate equity with me, and instead of starting at "one", often started at "six" or "seven".

Which left more room to fall from, I guess.

Inevitably, the camp boyfriend was much more appealing in small doses. The shared history did not hold up in the face of more current obstacles, like ex girlfriends and commitment issues. And sometimes, we were just too different, despite the fact that our best memories took place at the same place. Yet when I look back upon a landscape of ex-boyfriends and one night stands and crushes of my young adulthood in Manhattan, those camp boys still stood out as the ones who I can reflect upon fondly despite the outcomes. As if we both handled each others hearts a little more carefully because of that childhood connection.

Or maybe we were just afraid of running into each other forever -- cause that's also what happens with camp. Somehow, whether it's the crunch of kool aid crystals underfoot, or the sound of a whistle...there's just no escaping.

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