I went to camp once. Summer camp, with cabins and a lake and friends and boys.
I was not a camper, in that this would be my second ever camp experience at junior high age, the first being horse camp during elementary school – we will not relive that one today.
On the way to camp, my mom stopped to ask for directions from a man at a watermelon stand. To be nice, she also bought a watermelon. (This is important.)
This camp was a pretty awesome experience. It was filled with all the things that were yet to come in the life of a young teenager, like trying to impress boys, most embarrassing moments, musical obsession, forming close friendships and that one moment that is just so awesome you can’t believe you got to live it. All crammed into one week at camp!
5 Camp Memories that Changed my Life
1. I’m pretty sure my swimsuit was sheer. Like, you could see through it. Like, you could probably see my nipples through my swimsuit.
Let me explain. I was a swimmer. If you don’t know how cool swimmers are, this is how cool they are: they wear extra swimsuits while they’re practicing so that during swim meets, when they are just wearing one swimsuit, they go faster. This is called a drag suit.
I really liked my drag suit; it was a soft, pastel purple speedo and three sizes too big, like any good drag suit. This is the swimsuit I took to camp. I had never worn my drag suit alone, without another suit underneath it, and I didn’t realize it was sheer until I was in the water. It was like a hyper color effect -dry, it was purple; wet, sheer!
I hid in the lake, fretting about leaches, until I worked up the nerve to run back to my bunk, not sure how to cover all the places at once with not enough hands and arms to cover them. The strange thing is that, NO ONE seemed to notice except me. No one said anything, or looked at me funny. Nothing. I do not know how I got away with no one noticing that I was practically streaking through camp.
2. I tried to impress a boy by emphatically singing the song Crazy by Aerosmith whenever he was within earshot.
I may have gotten the idea from Seventeen Magazine. My friends and I would shush each other and as he approached, we would ready ourselves, make sure we were starting at the same part and then we would belt out the lyrics. “I go CRAZY, CRAZY, CRAZY… for you baby!”
It didn’t work.
I’m sure we sounded like fighting cats. He would duck his head and quicken his pace as he passed us. It’s possible he thought we were bullying him. I kind of hope that is what he thought, rather than that we were trying to impress him with our banshee screams. Aerosmith 4evea. That kid ended up at my high school the next year. We never talked to each other beyond my Week full of serenades.
3. I tried, and failed, to water ski.
This was the moment I realized how hard water skiing is, like how do you do it? Do you people have robot arms? Because waterskiing turns my arms to jelly, it’s like my arms are Super Man and the water skiing rope is kryptonite. Or like my arms are oil, and the rope is vinegar. Get it? Because they separate? I will pause here for you to enjoy my jokes.
Anyway, yeah. I did not escape ridicule for my arms being repellent to the water skiing rope. I just rode the boat in silence, while all the other kids enjoyed their water skiing, feeling like the poo swirl emoji probably feels next to the thumbs up + raise the roof emoji combo.
4. I won a contest based on athletic ability.
YEAH. Suck it, waterskiers. Because whoever is in charge of the universe had their laughs at my expense during Watersgate the day before, the next day was mine. I ruled the lake. I won. The champion. I even sang that I was the champion in my fighting cat voice.
I won – wait for it – the windsurfing contest! I am 48% positive the camp counselors made up this contest one hour before the windsurfing class because that day, there was not one hair strand pushin’ gust of wind in all of East Texas. (Say that with a cowboy voice.) That’s right – it’s like God held his breath to give me this moment.
So because there was no wind, the windsurfing lesson became a Paddle Board Balance Showdown – Elimination Style!
A few people went before me; this is how you play: two people stand on opposite edges of the board and try to wiggle it so the other loses their balance and falls in the water.
Then it was my turn, and I never left the board. Serious. I went through waterskier after waterskier after waterskier, wiggling that board like a Beach Boy on a Surfin’ Safari, knocking ’em off like bowling pins. If ever there was a moment for and Aerosmith tracked camp montage, THIS IS IT.
It was AMAZING (That one is for you, fellow Aerosmith tween fans from 1996). At first, I thought I was just lucky. Maybe those kids slipped. But then, I kept winning. It wasn’t even hard. I got cocky. I cheered when the other kids fell in the water. I think I even “Ooooooooed” and “What’s up Dawg!-ed” and if “Cash me outside” was a thing, I would have cashed in on it like Dr. Phil.
All the kids were cheering, and now that I think of it, it feels like they were cheering against me, cheering for the other kids that had not had a chance to LOSE to knock me off the board. Waterskiers, for sure. Let me just say, you need a boat for your sport and I only need to wiggle my hips to knock you off your paddle board. 🎤🖐🏼 I win at life.
I got a certificate at the End of Camp Ceremony. Yeah, remember those? All the waterskiers were pissy that I won. All the counselors were surprised and excited, like they had bet on me as the underdog in their underground camp counselor gambling ring, and I took first. I think there may have been a talent show at which I considered singing Crazy, but I abstained.
5. Remember that watermelon?
My mom drove me to camp, from Houston, dropped me off and drove directly back to Houston, to the airport. She left for a multi day business trip. When she returned, and the elevators opened to the parking garage level on which she parked, she says, it smelled like a dead body. As she walked closer and closer to her car, the smell got stronger and stronger.
That’s when she remembered the watermelon. You know, the one she bought, just to be nice because the watermelon stand guy gave her directions? Remember, before smart phones and cell phones and Tom Tom and GPS, you had to ask people for directions? You don’t really hear people nostalgically reminiscing about asking for directions, do you? Certainly not my mom.
That car smelled so bad, for so long. She had it detailed and still it smelled. It smelled when she picked me up from camp. It smelled so bad that I threw a fit to ride home with my next door neighbor who was also at camp. Imagine you haven’t seen your kid for a week and you drive hours to pick them up and they yell at you and demand to ride with someone else? Sorry, Mom! That was crappy of me!
That smell never really went away. It lingered, even years later. You could smell decomposed watermelon for a minute or two before the air conditioner cooled off the car, and probably still can, wherever it is.