Thursday, December 06, 2007

Salt water taffy

When I was 12 my parents sent me away to sleepover camp, I didn't want to go. I couldn't believe they were doing this to me. The camp was in the West Virginia hills and it was called Greenbrier but not like the famous resort it was just a camp. Probably it was beautiful, but I didn't notice. All I noticed was that I was stuck in a cabin with 12 boys I was scared of boys I didn't know how to act. I wrote my parents long letters every day, telling them how horrible the camp was how lonely I felt could they please come pick me up and take me home? The only phone at the camp was in the director's cabin and it had to be an emergency. A few times I called them and they told me I had to stay, it was a learning experience.

This was before I knew what I wanted, so I still wanted to be good. I wanted to read books and hide from kids and talk to adults because I thought they didn't hate me as much. At camp, you were supposed to run around outdoors all day and you rarely got to see the girls because they did different things. I remember skipping stones in a pond, making those gimp cords in all different shapes that was my favorite thing to do but you couldn't do it too often. I remember this one kid borrowed my tennis racket, and then he broke it because he got upset that he lost and so he threw it in the air and I didn't know how to ask him to get me another one. I remember the kids in my cabin asked me to swing in on a cord and jump onstage for the talent show, we were doing Jump -- for my love -- that song. I can't remember whether I did it, I know I didn't want to.

Lisa Oliphant was there -- she was my best friend in second grade before she switched schools, but at camp I only saw her a few times -- maybe the camp was really large or maybe the girls stayed on the other side, something like that. Lauren was there too but she didn't hate it, she could deal with other kids and she liked the archery class, although maybe it wasn't called a class. Sometimes she and I got big boxes of salt water taffy from our parents, care packages they called it but otherwise we were supposed to eat things like sloppy joes and meatloaf -- I'd never seen a sloppy joe before -- at home we ate things that now seem almost as gross -- hamburgers and Lipton's chicken noodle soup, with the sophisticated touch of a salad that was romaine lettuce instead of iceberg. But a sloppy joe was a different world, some kind of American we were supposed to experience.

For some reason everyone at the camp was from Florida and they'd never seen snow. One time there was a hailstorm and they were all jumping up and down -- it was 80 degrees out, I knew better. The only time that was okay was when I was alone in the cabin, or maybe that time when Lauren and I skipped stones. This was the only year we went to sleep-away camp although I think Lauren wanted to go back, maybe she did -- I can't remember much, and that's why I want the letters I wrote to my parents. I want to remember this time when I still thought they might protect me, it's hard for me to imagine now when I know everything had already happened. I mean I know what already happened. I'll never know everything.

For years, the letters were in a shoe box in my father's office, and several times I asked my mother to photocopy them for me, because she didn't want to send them. When I went back to their house before my father died, the letters weren't in the same place my mother said she put them somewhere else. Where? She didn't know. I'm still hoping she'll find them. She probably already has.

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