Oh the People We Meet

One of my favorite classes back in undergrad was my creative writing course. This is a piece that ended up as part of my final portfolio at graduation. It’s a mix of reality and creativity, but it contains the essence of every summer I spent at camp.

 My eyes are burning. Why is it so bright? What is that sound? I can’t move, everything feels different.

*****

 Growing up, I spent every summer at camp. Every day was a new adventure, and every night was a different prank. Camp was my getaway. Back home there were seven siblings, five older than me. Home was where I never wanted to be. My parents worked hard and provided for us, so life was good. We had everything we needed and wanted.  But I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes “everything” wasn’t what I wished for. I longed to be seen.

*****

 I hear something, but I can’t place it. I know it’s early, I always wake up at six in the morning. 

*****

 Back home, school starts at seven, so my body is internally set to rise on time. For some reason, today, six feels odd. There are only four more days left of camp. I can’t believe the summer went by so fast. I’ll miss Jessie the most, who’d of thought we would end up being best friends?

 The first day of camp, six years ago, I walked into my cabin and there she was. Jessie was sitting on her bed crying. Not tiny tears, the kind of crying that makes your shoulders jump up and down and your throat makes that deep sucking noise when you try to breathe. I laughed at her – really loud. After all, I had a reputation to keep. 

 Jessie became my target. If I found her hovering in a corner, I’d call her out. When she was taking a shower I made sure to flush all five toilets. Somehow, she came through it. After two weeks she stopped crying, stood up straight, and flashed a smile as my friends and I tormented her. I remember thinking, who is this girl?

*****

 I don’t feel different. But then again, I haven’t moved. If I stay still no one will wake up. Ten extra minutes of sleep are precious these days.

*****

 Family isn’t a word I use too often. I write letters to my “real” friends from the summer and talk to them on the phone each week. School is okay, I typically only have one other sibling in the same building so I can achieve separation most of the time.

 When my mom dropped me off at the bus for camp in May she said, “no trouble this year, Chenon.” I smirked and ran to the bus. Me, trouble? Well, how else am I supposed to get their attention? But I don’t get into trouble.  I just have fun. Since when did fun become a crime?

*****

 I don’t hear anyone else yet, just that sound. It is familiar, but not to the cabin, and certainly not to this time of day in the cabin. I’ll just lay here a bit longer; someone is bound to get up soon. 

 I wonder what we’ll do for evening program tonight. Last night was amazing, I’ll never forget it. Wait . . . is that water?

*****

 Last year for my speech class I did a presentation on summer camp. It was the best day of the school year because I got to talk about my favorite time of year. I also learned that Shane, the hottest guy in my class, goes to camp too. I wonder what he does at camp. He said his parents send him to Texas for five weeks each summer. 

 I remember the first time I went to camp. I was six and scared. There were so many kids, some older than me. I unpacked, made my bed, and went for a walk. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by kids introducing themselves and giving me a tour. For once, people were flocking around me. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I was ready to go with it.

 That summer went on to mark fantastic beginnings. I made hundreds of friends, realized I could live without my mommy, and learned that I could be somebody. I had no idea that I’d be the somebody I am right now. Everyone knows my name, they run to my table at meals, and I’m always first picked for relay races. Maybe school could be like that this year, but I won’t hold my breath.

*****

 I don’t sleep near the bathroom, and the lake is on the other side of camp. It can’t be water. I’ve been coming to this camp for 12 years and I’m sure . . . oh wait, it could be raining. No, I checked the weather. I’m supposed to take my cabin on an all-day hike today, so I made sure we would be prepared. The radio said no chance of rain, pure sunshine. 

 I guess it’s time to get moving, the girls will be up soon. Wait, I can’t move, what is going on? Why am I outside? Oh no! They got me! But how did they get me and my bed on a floating dock? And how do I get free?

*****

 I’ve learned a lot over the years. Coming to camp helped me learn who I was and who I am capable of becoming. That summer I met Jessie was the year I figured out that being mean doesn’t make you a winner and it won’t always make your popular. Most importantly, I learned that best friends come in all shapes and sizes. Jessie turned out to be the coolest person I’ve ever known.

*****

 Help! Somebody help! 

 I have to pee. Wait, is that a box of tissues? Well, well, well. Jessie strikes again. Every time she pranks me, she leaves a box of tissues. As a reminder of what I didn’t give her on the day we met.  Here come the campers, it must be time for breakfast. I guess I’m on display. 

 Payback for years of pranks has finally come full circle. I love summer camp.

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Must Have Been a Manic Monday

Our Monday Morning (actually Tuesday):

5:45 – Gotta pee, see the time and think “meh, I can get another wink in before 6am”.

6:00 – Alarm sounds … volume is down so I don’t hear it.

6:01 – 7:27am – Second alarm sounds at 6:40 and I don’t hear that either. At some point Ari crawls in my bed and starts jabbering away. I don’t EVER open my eyes and make contact during these times because eye contact means I’m awake and I don’t want to be awake.

7:28am – Ari: Maaaaaaaama, ma, ma, moom!!!!!!!

Me: WHAT!!!! (Eyes still closed)

Ari: Mr Gold Sun is UP!

Me: Pissed off and ready to slice this child, I look at my phone and it’s now 7:29am. 😳😳😳😳😳😳

7:29:53 – General household announcement that the bus is leaving in 10 minutes those not on it will suffer the wrath of Mama Known’s grueling cleaning schedule all day (uh, if you’ve been in my house you know this does not exist … EVER).

7:33 – Ari is standing on her bed, naked, clothes in hand. “I’m getting dressed mama”

Ashley is STILL in bed but swearing she is up and almost dressed.

7:37 – Ari now has pants on. Zoe has a collar and her legs are quivering from holding pee. Ash is nowhere to be seen. But send out a signal of life every 30-40 seconds.

7:40 – Ari and I dash downstairs, I make a pathetic PB sandwich and throw in a granola bar and call it a day for her lunch.

Ashley still has made no entrance.

7:45 – Ari has on her pants, socks, shoes, coat … underwear in one hand, shirt in the other. Ash has appeared in a nice dress and designer leggings. Good to know someone has the time for style today.

7:47 – (Ari should be in school now) Ari disrobes in the kitchen to put on the forgotten garments. Ash throws a breakfast sandwich in the micro, let’s Zoe out to pee and decides to change her clothes. Uhhh … NO! The second announcement is made that anyone in various states of undress will still be boarding the mama bus in 1 minute.

7:49 – Run to the truck that we left outside instead of in the heated garage. Winter has returned … nobody is dressed for the 37 degree shock.

7:49:17 – Ari doesn’t have her bag!!!! She runs to get it.

7:51 – Finally leaving for the school run.

7:53 – LATE so Ash has to walk Ari to her classroom.

8:03 – LATE so Ash has to be buzzed into to school while I call them and beg for mercy.

8:07 – PLEASE DEAR GOD DONT LET THIS MORNING BE IN VAIN … I CAN NOT MISS THE DIRECT TV AND INTERNET APPOINTMENT AT 8AM!!!! Mama Known needs her WiFi and HBO back.

Any other day and I would have declared it a no school day, handed Ari the remote, and gone back to sleep.

When the Natives Get Restless

It’s been a long winter here in Wisconsin. Kids are restless, they have lost their minds, refuse to wear appropriate clothing, and are demanding lemonade like it’s a requirement for life during what should be warmer months. What is a parent to do!?! Seriously, this may actually be my signal for help. Mom down! Sound the alarms! Woop woop!

I grew up in Northern Indiana and Central Michigan. I don’t have any clear recollection of seasons being skipped, extended, or left to be a mere figment of our grainy imaginations. I spent my summers at camp and the rest of the year in school. I guess you could say my life as a child was very similar to the Wonder Years.

Now, fast forward to today and this ridiculous cold streak that may never end. Oh, but wait … there’s hope! We’ve had 3 days above 50 degrees and might just fall near 30 at night, but not below for the first time in what seems like a century. You see, we adults can rationalize this weather system business. Kids? Not at all. At least not my kids.

My four year old firmly believes that since Mr. Sun is now waking up before 6am, not taking naps, and staying up until after 7pm that she should definitely be on the same schedule. She also spends her days finding new ways to attempt breaking in to the OUTDOOR pool because it’s summer already. When she can’t get to the pool she just strips and swims in her Sammy the Snail sand table. Oh yes, picture that … you will laugh for a bit.

My 15 year old is on a totally different spectrum. Not only is it supposed to be nice enough to wear shorts and tank tops, she believes by being strong willed the global system has no choice but to align. Yup, that’s right, apparently I’m parenting a child that has the power to persuade Mother Nature. After she’s done dressing for the beach on a brisk 35 degree day, she puts on a Xero Exposure four layer winter coat to keep the breeze from drying out her skin. Uhhh … legs aren’t important? We are just freezing them off now? I don’t think CPS is ok with you having nubbins simply because Mother Nature needs to shape up or ship out. Yeah, they would definitely frown about that.

So you see, as parents, we fight a losing battle. I wake up smart, look smart, fix and spruce up the unsmart factors, and enter the battle field. As always, I realize at the moment I hit the front lines that I’m not prepared; I’ve become a causality of disservice; and how in the hell will I escape this nightmare without 1. Causing lasting injury and 2. Maintaining even a modicum of self respect? The answer? A bunch of emoji’s that don’t quite say what I’m feeling or thinking on an individual basis, but together … they speak volumes.

😳🤨😂🤷🏼‍♀️😥😬😭🤢🤭☹️😡😬🙄🤦🏽‍♀️

To tame the wild she brought her outside slide in to practice while the snow melted.

Awe … they look so sweet and harmless. 🤯

I promise … this coat is the only smart clothing this child had on. Sometimes the battle is lost so you have energy for the wars to come.

What inspires you?

Music sets me apart from everything around me. Bad days, toxic people, and just nothing going my way can be instantly reversed by listening, singing, or playing music.

I was fortunate as a child to be surrounded by both a parent who LOVED music and a church that embraced it as a tool of service. Music taught me determination, what it is to emote, and mostly that somethings just aren’t expressed in words.

What moves you?