by Sandy Rustin, Actress, Writer, Mom, and OSRUI Alum
It’s July 24th and I miss camp.
There was something about the sound of the bus wheels, slowing on the gravel of that circular driveway, that induced pure joy. Hundreds of wide-eyed girls and wild-child boys would bound off the buses and listen for their name to be called by impossibly cool counselors with accents and clipboards. Sitting on my trunk, waiting to hear my cabin assignment, I would whisper secret prayers to God that I’d be placed with my besties and that Apple Jacks would be available for breakfast.
My tween-age definition of happiness was those first nights at summer camp, lying awake on top bunks, the smell of Tinkerbell nail polish and Off (with deet) in the air, the sound of whispers between friends for life.
In the sixth grade I learned the word “utopia.” The teacher defined it and I thought, “Oh, sure. That’s camp.”
Today’s a perfect camp day. I wish I could run down the hill and put my buddy tag on the waterfront board. I would pick windsurfing as my activity and then after, I would swim out to the raft and lay out with no fear of skin cancer or age spots. During rest time I’d write my best friend at home a letter, telling her I was in love. I’d choose playwriting as my afternoon activity and write something pithy for my friends and I to star in. I’d walk by the stables and sneeze 3 times. Maybe I’d check out candle-making. I’d tye-dye a pillow case in a spiral pattern. I’d wear my friend’s peasant blouse for dinner and put my finger to my nose to avoid clearing the table. I’d sing full out. I’d hold hands with a boy during evening snack and disappear into the starry woods for peanut butter bar flavored kissing. We’d probably break up in the morning.
When you’re 14 years old at summer camp, your primary concern is who you’ll sit with at lunch. The weight of future adult summers, sans summer camp, doesn’t register. There’s not a moment during color war, when you think to yourself, “One day I’ll be 36 and running errands instead of … running.” When you’re 14 years old at summer camp, you are fully present. Loving every mosquito riddled moment. Your future self seems implausible, so you remain a developmentally appropriate narcissist and eat as many Saturday morning cinnamon rolls as possible, with no thought to your future thighs. Being 14 years old at summer camp is a luxury.
My kids are in day camp now. They’re too young to sleep away. But one day, I hope to send them somewhere buggy. Somewhere without a TV or Wi-Fi. Somewhere they can step on a snail on their way into the lake for swimming lessons. Somewhere they can have as many roasted marshmallows as they can fit on their stick. I hope they send me letters that say “Dear Mom, Camp is awesome. Gotta Go.” I hope they’ll cry and cry on the very last day because they’ll miss their truest friends too much.
And I hope, when they’re 36 and summer rolls around and they’re taking out the trash and going to work and mowing the lawn, they can have a day like I’m having today. A day where they look out their window, see the sun’s reflection on the rustling leaves, and miss camp.
SANDY RUSTIN is an actress, writer, and mom (and OSRUI alum). Her musical, Rated P … for Parenthood, premiered Off-Broadway in February 2012 to wide acclaim and is currently running regionally. This blog is reprinted with permission from her blog, Rated P for Parenthood .