The gloriously surprising weather of this past weekend took me back to my summer camp days. More specifically, it made me realize that I have found my place at Georgetown in a way that I never did at summer camp.
When I was nine years old, I spent two weeks during the summer at Red Pine Camp for Girls. The camp was situated on a pristine lake in the north woods of Wisconsin – and by pristine, I mean that campers bathed in the lake, donning swimsuits and using biodegradable shampoo. Red Pine was everything a young girl could dream of in a camp. It boasted years of tradition, gorgeous facilities and old-fashioned cabins with names like Sunset, Star and Birch.
As I prepared to head off, I couldn’t wait to join the ranks of kids who spent their summers at camp. I held an idealized view of the camp experience and, based on what I’d gleaned from pop culture and accounts from friends, I had decided that once you went away to camp, your whole world divided into “camp” people and “non-camp” people. Non-campers just could not understand the sanctity of camp experiences and friendships. Camp was to become a second home and a great adventure. I couldn’t wait.
I spent the weeks leading up to my departure feverishly going over Red Pine’s packing list. I carefully packed away the essentials: a newly acquired tennis racket, a flashlight and extra batteries (for ghost stories!), bedding for my very own bunk and extra pencils and paper for games of MASH with my cabin mates.
It was clear from the beginning, however, that I was not cut out for camp life. Two weeks was the shortest term you could spend at Red Pine. I had somberly decided to ease into the transition, reasoning that I could always build up to four or six weeks the next year. In retrospect this was a wise decision.
At the time, however, this meant that in the eyes of the truly committed girls – the ones who spent eight weeks of their summer on Clear Lake year after year – I was a “two-weeker”: a bottom-dweller in the Red Pine food chain. To make matters worse, the only other campers in my cabin were girls from Spain. They were beautiful, cultured and already best friends. They chattered away in rapid Spanish as I sat lonely on my bunk, anxiously wishing I’d paid closer attention to the “Learn in the car: Spanish” tapes my dad had given me the previous Christmas.
Despite these setbacks, I was determined to make the most of my two weeks, and I befriended a girl from the cabin next to mine. Unfortunately, we weren’t involved in any of the same daily activities. She was in a higher level of swimming than I, and was therefore able to partake in enviable aquatic activities like sailing and windsurfing. I had literally floundered during the swimming test, and was put in the lowest swimming level with the 6-year-old campers.
y efforts to succeed at other quintessential camp activities were equally discouraging. Time spent in the arts and crafts cabin left my hands coated in dried crazy glue. I was positively abysmal at tennis, and I woke up one morning to a daddy longlegs crawling on the wall next to my bed.
y morale took a serious beating. I grew homesick and dejected. I received notes from my parents almost every day. But the mail was slow to deliver my frantic pleas that they come rescue me, and so their letters were almost unbearable to read.
Reinforcements came in tangible form during the second week. My dad, bless his soul, FedExed me the copy of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” I’d pre-ordered earlier in the summer. Finally, I had something to do with all my alone time. I spent the remaining days of camp reading whenever I could. When my dad came to pick me up at the end of the term, I was so delighted to be going home that I forgot an entire duffel bag of my belongings in the cabin.
At the tender age of nine, I came to a rather unsettling realization about myself. I seemed destined to stay a non-camper forever. Mine was to be a sad life.
But last week, as I basked in the glorious sunshine on Healy Lawn, it dawned on me that every now and then my Georgetown experience feels a lot like how I had always imagined camp. There are days when I am happy to do nothing more but stay in my dorm room (read: cabin) with friends and tell stories, eat junk food and even play the occasional game of MASH. I have found here what it is that I believe makes many people love camp so much: a second home and a great adventure. It’s good to be here.
argaret Delaney is a sophomore in the College. She can be reached at mdelaneythehoya.com. I Know This Much Is True appears every other Tuesday.
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