meeting in the middle

A few months ago, in a conversation with a friend, about who we used to be, and how other people remembered us. She said something wise that I’m sure I’ll get wrong here. Something about how we are all pretty much the same. Who we are is essentially who we were. Maybe with a few more (or less) pounds, fresh highlights and with more insurance. I told her that I didn’t want that to be true. That I wanted to think that we all change and grow and get better. And I wasn’t sure that there was much of the 15 year old, or 18 year old or even 22 year old version of myself that I wanted to keep.

And today I realized that maybe she was mostly right. And there are a few things I don’t mind hanging on to after all.

It is July. And July to me means foot lockers packed with Sunday whites and Mohawk red. Not looking down on the catwalk. BBQ by the river. Sun In. The Wagon Wheel snack shop. Dancing in the alcove. Sticking to my mattress. Late night talks in bunks. Vinegar in my ear. Tipping canoes. Intentionally. Daddy long legs. Chore wheels. Sneaking food out of the snack barrel. Sneaking ice from the ice machines. Sneaking ice cream from the freezer. Sneaking out. (apparently there was lots of sneaking). Jumping off the bridge. Jumping off the dam. Banana boats. Fuzzy Wuzzies. Smores. Writing my name in rocks. Ripping my swimsuit on the rapids. Carrying that impossibly heavy wooden sled up the Mo slide. And most importantly not drying my hair. Not wearing making. And just being me without any pretension for a month or more.

My parents sent me to classic summer camp, and eventually I went back and worked there for a few summers. And it never left me. (and I wrote about all the things I learned there here and here…)
I remember going home every summer, getting back and being so excited to call my friends. And thinking that they had changed while I was gone. They were suddenly
different and less fun to be around. And it is because something about living and laughing and crying and bonding with so many girls for 3 straight weeks ruins you. Maybe forever. Some of my other friendships when I got home just seemed flat and shallow.

In July camp people come out of the woodwork. Something in us aches for that place and each other. It happens every summer. This time someone started an alumni page and started posting old pictures. I have a huge ziplock bag of them ranging somewhere from the late 80s to the late 90s. So I learned how to work my scanner. And for days I couldn’t keep up with my facebook. I had messages and comments and friend requests from people I hadn’t seen or heard from in well over a decade. (or in some cases two decades!). And now most of us, even my own campers, are married and have kids and busy schedules and totally different lives.

But I got an email suggesting a few of us meet up anyways. A few of us from DFW and a few of us from ATX and we picked a place in the middle. And we loaded up our carseats and strollers and drove south. And the north. And we met in the middle.

Micheal W Smith is a little misleading. Most friends aren’t forever. And I was nervous. I’m always nervous about seeing people I haven’t seen in a while because I worry that they won’t like the me that I am now. That we can only remember for so long and that maybe our conversations will stall out and make for a really uncomfortable lunch where we all just stare at each other. But within five minutes I realized this wouldn’t be the case. We were quickly sweating and laughing profusely. Like it was any other July. And more than once I got called an old nickname or said something ridiculous that made people laugh and tell me how I hadn’t changed. A bit. And that they were glad for it. And of course we’ve changed. I’m sure we are all really different women than the teens and twenties we were over a dozen years ago. We have new jobs and some of us have new last names and a slew of toddlers in tow. But. what hadn’t changed was who we were. People who were shaped and loved and felt safe enough to let our guards down in that dorm on a hill down by the Guadalupe. And those girls never went away.


samskat said...

you gave me chills. you're right, something about July just makes me ache for camp. and those friends. and i think MWS was right about some friends. pretty sure i don't have any friends from LL that i couldn't still giggle and chat with. despite extra pounds, gray hairs, and an ever present toddler. :) thanks for posting, wish i could have been there. next time i'm in big d??? :)