Thursday, February 2, 2012

Summer Camp and how it's taking me to Grenada

I spent two of the most amazing summers of my life at summer camp.
No, not as a camper - as a counselor.

The summer of 2000 - I quickly decided that staying home in Naugatuck, CT after being away for an entire year of college just wasn't going to do it for me. I randomly found this summer camp looking for counselors for 9 weeks - applied and like, 2 weeks later was moving up to Kent, CT for the most amazing summer EVER.

It was my first real introduction to international cultures. It was also the very first time I was going somewhere where I knew absolutely no one. (Even the small college I chose - had some familiar faces somewhere my first year.)

I had no idea what to expect. To this day, I have no idea what came over me that made me fill out that application - I swear it was fate because it really wasn't like me.

The first week of camp - you are cleaning out the cabins and getting ready for the campers, so it's just staff. I am not even kidding that on the very first morning at wake up revelle at the flag pole - is when I met 2 of what would become the Fearsome Foursome!

It really was that magical. We were assigned to the same age groups (I think it was 11 - 14 year olds) and we ended up sharing the only 2 cabins that were connected. We also were not assigned as partners to each other - which was convenient for scheduling all our nights off together - because had we all been assigned as counselor partners, our summer would have never happened - at least not like it did.

Working at a sleep away camp is a 24 hour job. You get a few nights off and one full day a week. There is a curfew when you have to get back to campus and check in - we took full advantage of every second that we had off duty as well as our on duty time with our kids.

We were young - 19 and 20 and that summer turned us back into 13 year old girls. (just like our campers)

We had crushes, love triangles and drama just like the girls we were taking care of.
We were DRUNK (literally on our nights off and figuratively) on the prospect of having as much fun as humanly possible. (we were very good with our kids at the same time, which was different than a few of the other counselors who couldn't have cared less about the kids)

We quickly became friends and linked up with 2 boys from boys camp and from that point on were known as the Fearsome Foursome and the Gruesome Twosome.
(Yes, I am serious - I told you we had turned back into 13 year olds)

There were other people that joined us for our nights off - but we were the core group.

We made out with boys in the woods, went off-roading in a Jeep on a Christmas tree farm and explored (and got kicked out of for being underage) the surrounding bars and hang outs on our nights off. When I think of some of the things we did and how lucky we were that nothing bad ever happened, it gives me panic attacks that my own daughter might do something similar but not have such a happy outcome.

We trusted these boys completely (and it worked out in our favor because they took very very good care of us) and allowed them to take us into the dark night down some creepy road with no lights - park at this hiking trail entrance that was CLEARLY closed for the night, and let them lead us down to this place they said we HAD to see...

(this could have gone wrong in SOOOOOOOOOOOo many ways)

But what happened, is we came out of the woods into this open clearing by a river that they had found the night before.
We called it the Rock - and we went there together as much as we possibly could for the rest of the summer. We swam in the river in our bras and underwear and had to check back in at camp soaking wet. (none of us thought to bring towels) We jumped off a rock ledge way too high (no, seriously it was high) in the pitch black into a body of water with a depth that was kind of unknown to us. We bought beer and ice and used the rocks as coolers to pack the beers into. We drank and drank and drank and lucky for us, we always had a designated driver - our friend from Wales who only drank Smirnoff Ice (which was not yet available in the US) and NEVER drank beer. We also had nights where beer wasn't involved because we had to drive almost an hour away to get it with the fake ID we were using at the time and we didn't always have that kind of time to commute for beer and still have time to hang out before curfew.

It was an unlikely group of people - me, from CT, T from Colorado, S from Georgia/Florida/Hawaii, and S from Wales/Grenada/London. M was from PA and J was from Virginia I think.

We took care of each other, we took care of our kids. We sailed in the lake and braved the swim test together. We raided the kitchen after hours and even took day trips together on our days off. In fact, a group I wasn't with them - and half of them were internationals and they just stayed at my house and then went on their way)

We argued about Trainers versus Sneakers and Pants versus Track Suite Bottoms. We used torches (flashlights) to find our way to the Rock at night. (although by the end I don't think we needed them) We sang the Star Spangled Banner at the top of our lungs one night when the boys dropped us off to the Rock and we had to wait for them to come back. We figured it would let anyone or anything in the immediate area know we were there - clearly scaring them away until our boys came back.

We watched for shooting stars and had late night picnics. We had dance parties and played music loudly in our cabins with our kids. We participated in Color War and took it to heart.
We let our kids dress us up as differently themed Barbies for a contest - and we had our hearts broken hearing the stories of some of our campers and how un-involved their parents were with them. (some of their parents dropped them off at camp and then jetted off to Europe for their own vacations - never calling or writing or visiting on Parents day)

We experienced all that camp life has to offer and let me tell you, there are some weird traditions, songs, skits, things that go on at camps... and being on the outside looking in, we had a blast dissecting and trying to understand it all.

Saying goodbye at the end of the summer was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do both to the kids and to each other, because we all knew that being so far away - it could never be like it had been. I think we always knew we'd stay in contact to some degree, but we knew that was all it would be - because life happens.

It's been 12 years (HOLY COW) We have gotten together for S's wedding in Atlanta, my wedding in CT, my husband and I visited S in London a few years ago and she visited us here during the NYC marathon which she ran in. T and I visited S when she was going to UGA in Athens and T spent a new years eve at S's house one year as well.

This brings me to Grenada. S is getting married in Grenada and at first, I figured it would never happen with the kids, etc... I mean I just went back to work and haven't been more than 2 hours away from the kids EVER. I quickly realized when I started researching flights that it was going to be impossible for my husband and I both to go, because it's just too hard to get back in case of an emergency and I didn't want us to be so far from the kids... so I kind of left it at that.
My hubby however - told me I should go alone. Make it a girls weekend.

Take the chance and do it - because you only live once and I'd regret it if I didn't go.

I felt awful because I know it's selfish and I feel bad leaving the kids for that long and I feel even worse, leaving my husband to be a single parent for 6 whole days while I go to paradise.

But he told me to go... so I booked a flight and I'm headed to Grenada in April by myself and meeting T there. S already promised me that her friends would adopt me and I wouldn't be the lonely American girl and I believe her because her friends were amazing to us when we visited her in London.

When you come across friends like these - the really true ones - that you can get together in a room no matter long it's been since you talked and have the time of your life - I feel you have to take every opportunity to get in that room with them!

I don't have any friends that I can just call up for coffee. Geography always bit me in the ass in that department as my best friends all left me at some point and now live AT LEAST an hour away. I don't get to see my good friends nearly as much as I'd like to and I know it's ok - because life happens and we all get busy and grow apart and head down different paths. It's sad - but it's true.
My best friends are the people who I've spent time with in College, or at camp, or for 3 years while we lived in Irvington, NY and had the best neighbors ever - and all of these people have left me to live elsewhere.

So, I am moving past my feelings of guilt and starting to get incredibly excited at the prospect of a girls weekend in paradise with some of my favorite people on the planet.

Just cause we don't talk a lot or see each other (like, ever) doesn't mean that you're not still my favorite people.

So, here's to Grenada and to Kenmont/Kenwood Camps for introducing me to some amazing people. And cheers to my best friend in the world, for encouraging me to go and promising NEVER to hold it over my head and for volunteering to hold down the fort with our kids.

I'm feeling pretty lucky and starting to think that 2012 is really going to be the year I get out of my terrible funk for good. I also think I need to try to make more time and occasions to visit all you people that moved away. Not sure how I'm gonna do it, but I'm gonna try really hard. If only we could transport through air instantly like in Harry Potter - I'd travel to Brooklyn, Connecticut, Brewster, Alabama, Florida, Boston, Colorado and London (just to name a few) way more often!

Here's to great friends in far away places!