The end of summer is strange. If you don’t have kids, you don’t have the hectic running around for school supplies, new clothes, meeting teachers, helping them figure out classes. Nevertheless my cells get tingly at the end of August. It’s embedded.
I only went to summer camp twice; once when we were living in South Africa for six months building a new boat. My sister and I were enrolled in school in Cape Town, and my mom was excited for us to have the camp experiences she’d had growing up: she had visions of us singing songs around the campfire, roasting s’mores, making friends.
The camp was called, wait for it, Camp SOS. I kid you not. That huge red flag aside, and the fact that it was one of the few things we participated in that was not integrated (this was still during Apartheid), off we went for a week of what turned out to be more like forced labor camp. We marched in drills, had to drink either coffee or tea at meals (I was eight years old). The counselors would burst into cabins after lights out to do toothbrush checks. If one toothbrush wasn’t wet, the whole cabin was forced to go outside and run laps in their pajamas. In the dark. Raining or not.
The two things I remember most about that week were that I didn’t change my socks even once because I was so distressed, and that my sister came to check on me any chance she could (she was in a different section because she was older). Oh, and there was sheep poop everywhere. Needless to say I was unimpressed.
I had a MUCH better camp experience when I was 11 at a place in the mountains above Santa Cruz, California. I was there for three weeks with two of my best friends from 6th grade. The camp was full of horseback riding and hiking, archery, ceramics, yes there were s’mores, the counselors were great, I was homesick but had a lot of fun, and we sang songs every night. My mom was vindicated. The memory of SOS faded.
This summer has been interesting. Park City is lovely. The mountains are green. The aspens shake and shimmy and the pines smell sweet and like sunbaked bark. People are nice. But it hasn’t felt like home. We both missed our pillows. And our coffeemaker.
I’m fortunate to still have my parents with me, but I worry about them now like they worried about me when I was at camp so long ago. There have been some mishaps and scrapes and Denise and I decided to come home early. So the other morning we packed up our suitcases, dog toys, food, monitors, laptops, books, guitar, one huge wooden bowl embedded with crushed turquoise we bought at an art fair and all kinds of other stuff I don’t remember having when we drove up, and headed 670 miles south to our home in Phoenix. Throughout the day we came upon the aftermath of massive thunderstorms, always after the flash floods had subsided and the roads were muddy and steaming. The skies were swollen with clouds and light. We passed around and between Bryce Canyon and Zion, weaving through cattle pastures and Navajo Nation, below the dam that separates Lake Powell from the Colorado River with the Grand Canyon on our right, through Flagstaff, down past Sedona and Bloody Basin Road and Horse Thief Basin and into our city.
There are those who say that being alive is like being in school, that you never stop studying and learning and when you graduate from one big lesson you get a rest and then it’s back to school again. I’m inclined to agree.
So it’s back to school. Camp is over and September is peeking around the corner. Change is in the air, and the crickets are out in force tonight making noise about it all.
I wonder what classes I’ll get. I hope I like my teachers.