Sleepaway camp for me was a life changer. No really. I entered an insecure mess of a girl and came out a more independent and self-assured version 2.1. Or something. I bring this up as today I had a camp friend and his family over the house for breakfast, last week I met up with one of my best camp girlfriends and the week before met out in the Berkshires with another camp friend and his wife. And I jokingly said on one post that I would always see my camp friends when they are near but it is the truth.
So why? Why do I hold these memories and experiences so dear to me? Well, the camp friend today, let’s call him Mason Jayo is someone who probably didn’t even remember me from camp until facebook came around but he had a lasting impression on me and he probably doesn’t even know it. And no, it’s not that kind of last impression you dirty birds, get your heads out of the damn gutter. No, what he did was pick me to be on his color war team at the end of camp. This may not seem like a big deal to any of you who were athletic and well coordinated but for me? It was epic. I distinctly remember him telling me that he and his friend (who I later dated for 2 whole weeks and broke my damn heart) picked me because I could out swim most people and I could sing for the talent competition and they thought that I would be an asset to the team. I was floored. I had never been picked for anything before. Swimming was something I was really good at but we didn’t have a team at school so it didn’t really help me in gym class. So when I was picked relatively quickly for this team I was absolutely taken aback. My confidence grew about 10 sizes much like the grinch’s heart. My camp BF, let’s call her Hen Jaber and I ended up on the same team and racing the triathlon together and finishing first and second for our team. I had never been so happy in my whole life. This moment affected me more than I could ever express as it let me hope that I really could do whatever I put my mind to and that people would find that valuable. It was amazing.
The camp friend I saw last week was with me when I did a lot of my growing up. She was with me as I made very bad decisions and listened to me when I would cry to her about boy troubles. She has always remained a constant for me. She was also one of the “cool camp kids” so to be with her was like being on top of the world which was a different place for me. We shared clothes and boys and stories and laughs and we still do. Well maybe not the boys, you know. Spending 24 hours a day with “Halie Aeller” was a roller coaster of a trip for sure and one that I loved being on.
There was my friend that I saw in the Berkshires who always did and to this day always will make me laugh and will always want to get together. My good friend, Wavid Deisfelner. He was the camp clown and got kicked out when he was the oldest camper which still provides a great story for a drinking night. He lived in the same bunk as my first camp boyfriend Mance Lotkin who was the very best camp boyfriend a girl could have. I may at one point have dated that whole bunk besides a couple but anyway, that’s a different post for a different time. The M&M crew was quite awesome. Even when my camp BF’s brother broke his arm hitting the wall because of Wavid Deisfelner.
There was our dear friend Rich who left us all too soon in a valiant fight against cancer. He was the boy who at 15 looked like he was 25 and invincible and every girl imagined themselves on his arm. I will never forget the day he came up to me and said “So, I hear you’re from Mt. Sinai, we Suffolk county people have to stick together”. He won my heart right then and there as I was the new girl and most people had no idea about the little town I came from or why anyone would ever live there. But Rich, in that moment was my knight in white shining armor and I’m glad I got to tell him that later before he passed.
There were shy boys who told me later they had crushes on me and I wished they would have pursued that crush more diligently back then. There are the foreign counselors who introduced me to things like vegemite and drinking songs. There are the memories of singing and swimming and laughing and sneaking and growing up and hitting lows and living through it all in one summer. I will always hold those memories and people close because they have helped shaped the person I am today.
I stayed in camp until I was 25 and was the head counselor of the camp, a fact that my friend Mason Jayo could not believe. It was my home. In the time I was there I had so many campers who grew my heart and soul and made me into the adult I am today. I look at all of them on facebook and my heart swells at their successes, their children, their struggles, their lives. I was shaped by camp and then I was able to help shape the future campers and that is a gift I am so eternally grateful for. If I could back to camp tomorrow I would in a heartbeat. To all my camp friends, I want you to know that you all hold the most special place in my heart and you always will no matter how small or big our interaction. CPLV forever!