Today is a day I’ve been anticipating for months. This morning, Sara and I will load a car with sleeping bags and towels and overstuffed suitcases and we, along with two other friends from our summer camp days, will head up to Maine.
It’s the alumnae celebration of camp’s 100 year anniversary. My first summer at Tripp Lake came to a close almost exactly 20 years ago today. I was 8, it was 1990, and my parents had shipped me off eight weeks prior for the first of the nine seasons I would spend there as a camper. (That’s not entirely true. The “shipping off” part, I mean. I begged to go. After seeing how much fun my brother had at his camp I just had to try it.)
If I were forced to pinpoint one occurrence in my childhood that has led to my perhaps unreasonably high expectations of friends, camp would be it.
I grew up going to coed schools. When my mother suggested I attend the all-girl’s academy where she taught I shuddered at the thought. But camp was all girls, and I loved it. I was the one in my age group who got made fun of for worshiping camp so much. (I am not exaggerating. Any ex-camper reading this can attest to the making fun. And yes, I used the word “worship” back then, which now seems a tad melodramatic. But I probably was.)
In retrospect, what I adored about summer camp was how easy everything felt. It wasn’t about boys or clothes or anything other than singing songs (lots and lots of songs) and being with friends. You could just, as Matt might say, “do you.” At least, that’s my memory. Another former camper might tell a different tale.
When you live with other girls for two months, you get pretty comfortable with them. They get to know every part of you– the good, the bad, the crazy– and either they love you for it or they don’t. I mean, it was a girl’s summer camp not a hippie peacefest. There were plenty of fights. But once someone’s seen you have a meltdown because you had last choice signups, your esteem can only go up in their eyes.
For nine summers I lived with approximately six other girls, and each year they became like sisters. Bonding time was never turned off and I got spoiled. My friends were the cream of the crop. And now, 20 years later, I’m wandering the streets of Chicago looking for the same thing.
It’s not a fair request. The level of intimacy that builds between friends in the camp environment has remained unrivaled anywhere else in my life. Hence, why–despite loving it–camp might have screwed with my head: I’m looking for camp-like friendships in a severely un-campy space.
Is there anything or anyone who set your friendship expectations very, if not too, high? Were you a summer camper? Do you think some people’s adoration of camp is just plain creepy?