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There’s something about warmer weather that always brings me back to my childhood. The damp morning sunlight reminds me of waking up and anticipating going to camp, a place where I spent my summer vacation for seven years. I can remember waking up and rushing to find my Leader In Training (LIT) t-shirt that meant I had to help the camp counselors with planning crafts and games for the children younger than me. In retrospect, why did we have to pay to work for them? My parents poured out money for me to go to this camp each year and in my final two years working as an LIT, they still had to pay? Hell, LITs did more work than the counselors. We should have been paid.
Anyway, I liked to stir up trouble. I’ve always been a good girl but innocent rule breaking and telling white lies is my first nature. I don’t mean like sneaking drugs into camp or anything like that. I’ve always been too scared to mess around with drugs. I just mean like, sneaking into the back shed to talk to my secret boyfriend. Or being late to the morning flag meetings because I was getting coffee with my girlfriends from inside the YMCA. I’ve always been on the brink of rebellion and prodigy.
As much as it sucked paying them to be their slave, I loved that place. The work was shit, but getting to see my friends made it all worth it in the end. I was cool there. I was not cool in school. In school I had occasional friends. After the fifth grade, I found that people only wanted to be my friend for a little while and then they’d get bored of me. They used to come over to ride jet skis in the summer and then forget about me in the winter. My best friends from elementary school later got into drugs and alcohol in the sixth grade. That was never my style. I opted for the emo route and painted my eyes black, read the Twilight saga religiously, and listened to Secondhand Serenade (if you know, you know).
Summer camp was my place to be with my friends from the other side of town. The school I wish I went to. I went to Chittenango Middle & High school. All of my summer camp friends went to Cicero North Syracuse. I so desperately wished I had gotten to go to CNS, and I would have if my dad had just built our house on the other side of the damn bridge in Bridgeport. I remember begging my parents to transfer me to CNS.
“No one would know, you could drop me off every day and pick me up later.”
“Emma,” my mom would snap, “they hire people to make sure that doesn’t happen. They track where you live. We’d get into trouble.”
“Can’t we just try?”
I’ve never been one to take “no” for an answer.
But alas, I had to wait every year to see my summer camp friends–if they returned. A lot of them hated going. My closest ones always returned. But just as I suspected, once summer camp ended, so did those friendships. I have not seen any of my childhood friends in years.
There are two friends from summer camp that I still see from time to time. Haley and Brandon. Brandon was my first boyfriend as a result of summer camp and his twin sister, Haley, became my best friend. They used to fight over spending time with me when I’d go to their house at the age of twelve. Haley and I came up with nicknames for eachother: Haleykinz and Emmakinz, which we still use to this day. It warms my soul when I do see Haleykinz now that we both slave away our days at a new hell-hole that is Starbucks. She still looks the same, just with a few tattoos. I wonder if she thinks I still look the same, too, just with different hair.
As I get older, I am more and more nostalgic. I feel like I am both twenty-four yet also still only sixteen. I am still living at home and trying to make something of myself on the internet. It’s escalated over the years. It started on MySpace, then Tumblr, now Instagram. I used to stay up until four or five in the morning on Tumblr throughout high school. I was known as cat-core. I think I got my first taste of internet fame when I was in Hot Topic one time at the age of fifteen and someone stopped me and said, “aren’t you cat-core?!” & I’ve been addicted since.
Not much has changed in the past decade. I’m still doing the social media thing, except now it’s on Instagram and I go to bed at a more reasonable hour if my insomnia doesn’t kick in. I’d say I think this is why I am so nostalgic right now, but I am generally a sentimental person. I hold onto memories and cherish them so deeply that it brings me to tears sometimes.
I haven’t been to summer camp in about twelve years; yet, at the beginning of June every single year, I anticipate to go again only to remember that it, like most good things, is in the past. And still I crave peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and blueberries out of a plastic bag, only now it’s different because I don’t want to waste a cheat meal on pb&j.
I have seen a couple more of my friends from that time period recently at this age of 24. It’s wonderful to see them and feel that they still look the same when they really don’t. It feels like no time has passed at all, when really it’s been twelve years. But I can’t deny the sadness I feel when I start to happily recollect memories from our summer camp days and they respond with how much they hated that place. As if it had been a jail cell or something nasty. That place was my place. Laying under the giant willow tree as we had our bellies full from lunch and hurting from laughter was my safe haven. Telling ghost stories under our damp towels when it rained was the only pastime to look forward to on a rainy day. Making friendship bracelets and boondoggle were two crafts I could never figure out successfully, but still spent hours trying. I often remember the murder stories we’d tell at lunch time. There was a shooting range near by and we always thought it was either deer hunters or murder. There was no inbetween for us twelve year olds.
I almost feel embarrassed when I recollect these happy memories from Camp-Y-Noah and my precious childhood friends respond with how they’d prefer a cold day in hell before going back to that place. Why couldn’t they see what I saw? Why don’t they feel what I feel? I shouldn’t be embarrassed that I loved camp. I shouldn’t feel offended when they refer to that place as a source of misery. My nostalgia comes with a price, I suppose. I hold onto these memories and cherish them tighter than my friends who were there at the same place. My place.
It’s hard being the friend that loves too much.