I didn't like going to summer camp back then, not at first at least. While my other friends were free to wake up any time they chose, and do anything they wanted to all day long for that three month respite between school years, I was catching a morning bus at the corner of Drexel and Bond. The scent of bug spray from my backpack, the stinging of the sun screen in my eyes as it slowly seeped down my forehead, waiting there for that bus, a SCHOOL BUS at that, on hot sunny mornings during summers I was supposed to be off.
Looking back though, I didn't see at the time what my parents were actually doing for me. I didn't appreciate it then. Well, not til my last summer there at Launfall, my fourth consecutive. For some time between the end of my sixth grade semester, and my first day back at camp that year, girls started noticing me. To be fair, I had been noticing girls for years by then. They just hadn't been reciprocating. So after stepping off the bus that first morning, and quickly realizing I was suddenly thrust into the popular crowd, with both the girls and guys, well, let's just say I started liking camp.
I met my first girlfriend that first week, Lauren, and we really hit it off. Neither of us knew what the hell we were doing, what a relationship really was, or love, yet it did feel so right when we held hands and walked and talked around camp. I was still a "prude" at the time. And by prude, I mean, I hadn't kissed a girl with an open mouth and tongue quite yet. In Delaware County, PA back in the 90s at least, being "de-pruded" was extremely significant, a coming of age kinda thing, if you will. It came with bragging rights and invited the envy of all those who hadn't yet experienced it, or the prudes.
And so it was, after a field trip from Launfall to a place called the Family Fun Center, a place that to this day I can't figure out where it was, somewhere in northern Delaware perhaps, I found myself being led hand in hand with Lauren, who being a year older and NOT a prude and therefore much calmer and more excited than I, back behind the roller coaster. I was so nervous. We stopped in a corner by the back fence, and I looked into her piercing blue eyes. Her dark brunette hair down to her shoulders, she looked gorgeous.
I had this feeling that it was now or never, and closed by eyes and leaned in.
Ironically, I don't even remember the quality. It was probably sloppy, it was definitely awkward, but during it and right after, I was filled with joy and pleasure. I had kissed a girl! I was no longer a prude!
And you better believe I kissed and told, my camp friends, even a few of the cooler younger counselors, and especially my friends back at home, those friends I was once jealous of because they got to sleep in, and do nothing all day. Sure they had their freedom, but I was officially the first and only NON-PRUDE in the whole gang. Suddenly, catching a bus at 8 am for camp wasn't so bad after all. Suddenly, they began waiting for me at the bus stop to come back from camp everyday. They became the jealous ones.
Looking back to my summers at Camp Launfall, where the only thing I had to worry about all day was shooting bows and arrows, horseback riding, what was for lunch, playing basketball, trekking through woods, swimming in creeks and an immaculate in ground pool, playing tennis, going on field trips, and meeting great friends, well, let's just say these were great times I'll never forget, and that they beat working ANY DAY.
Especially that afternoon behind the roller coaster on July 9th, 1997.
Some people say that there is no past or future, only the present. They say to not reminisce or dwell on the past. I agree. Being present minded is ideal of course.
But memories are part of you too. They shaped your present self.
Think about the past all you want, as long as you, like me, aren't sad that it's gone, but happy it happened