Here’s a picture of me and my sister on camp visiting day, around 1980.
We’re sitting in the camp’s Quaker meeting circle.
Don’t laugh at my sister’s shorts. Camel toe was very “in” back then. (Soon to enjoy a renaissance in Williamsburg, no doubt.) My cuffed jeans, you can laugh at.
I’m thinking about camp because it’s that time of year when my friends with kids in sleep away camp post pictures of feet up on a table with white wine, and comments like “missing my kids, but…”
If there had been Facebook 30 years ago, my mother’s status updates would have said, “Does everyone’s kids refuse to write them, or just my daughter Laura?”
Or, more dramatically, “If anyone has kids at Camp Indian Brook, can you please find out from them whether my daughter is alive?”
(And then below that, an urgent comment from my father: “PLEASE also find out whether her bunkmate with the last name Finkel is descended from Ukraine. We may be related.”)
Sorry, Mom. Here’s the letter I would have written you, a summer or two after the picture above, if I’d been the letter-writing type. And, if I’d had the extra courtesy to add bold sub-heads for easier reading.
Camp is fun. I’m much more popular than last year.
I think it’s because you let me get layers in my hair and I’m more confident. Last year, Jenny told me I was a dog. And she said about my favorite Sweats Bichego shorts “Those shorts make you look chub.” We’re not really friends this year. My best friend is Jessica. She’s pretty and funny. She gave me a pair of her ribbon barrettes. Can I visit her in Maryland?
Thank you for the brownies. They were really good. The assistant counselor Amanda ate most of them because I’m trying not to eat too much sugar. She’s big and doesn’t care.
Sorry I didn’t have time to write until now.
At least this year I didn’t use the stamps you gave me as tape to stick up signs on the KYBO like I did last year. You were so mad when you saw them on visiting day. You were like “Stamps are not tape! It’s so wasteful!” Even though they were only 18 cents.
I finally found out why they call the outhouses KYBOs. It stands for “keep your bowels open”. Sometimes we look down the holes with flashlights. It’s so gross. There are so many years of poop piled up almost to the hole. It almost touches your butt.
I like camp but I can’t wait to use a flush toilet again.
Isn’t it weird that the kybos don’t have doors on them? That’s why I liked staying in the infirmary last year when I had worms (which think I got from the KYBO). They had an indoor flush toilet with a real door for privacy. And also they had saltines. You could have saltines any time. For some reason saltines taste better at camp.
But there was also that girl Mara from the Poo Corner cabin in the infirmary. She was weird. My friend Holly was in Poo Corner with her, and says Mara cried and pooped her bed every night. Haha maybe that’s why it’s called Poo Corner. Actually it’s Pooh Corner, from Winnie the Pooh. A lot of the cabins here are named after those books. I think Heffalumps is, but not ones like Sojourner. That one’s from feminism, which is really big here. Mara talked in her sleep in the infirmary and she smelled bad.
The one other bad thing is quaker meeting.
I wish they would get rid of it. What is the point of sitting around in silence? Sometimes someone stands up and says something stupid about the peaceful trees and birds. Yuck. I don’t get why we can’t bring a book. The worst is Sundays when it’s an hour. Amanda let me and Jessica skip it once. She said she wouldn’t tell on us if we didn’t tell on her. It was amazing.
Right now is afternoon elective time. I’m spending it writing this letter because I know you’re mad I haven’t written. I could have done drip candle making or Creative Sunbathing. That’s when you lie out naked with different shape stickers on your back or butt and you can get a tan line in the shape of a star or heart. It’s run by a counselor named Uncle Sally. Weird. She has long black braids and lives in a teepee.
I’m not so into lying out naked anyway.
As you can guess. But I do go nude swimming like everyone else now. Remember when I wore my bathing suit the whole summer and even slept in it? Now I don’t wear a bathing suit at all. I discovered it’s so much easier this way because you don’t have to wait for anything to dry! You just towel off.
What’s gross is that when we swim out to the raft, the lifeguard counselor is standing on it with a whistle in her mouth and we can look up and see her tampon string. Another gross thing is that one of the campers wears a pad with a belt. I read about those in are you there god it’s me margaret but didn’t think they still made them. Anyway, she takes it off to go swimming and leaves it out on her towel.
Know what I found out?
That some Vermont people drive through the camp to see if they can see any naked people. Funny.
I like my counselor Amanda. She calls me Puffy Eye from when I got a mosquito bite on my eye. The main counselors I don’t like as much. Janice the head one is really strict. She took away my Walkman that you got me special permission to use for practicing my torah portion for my bat mitzvah. I was just joking around pretending to rock out to it and she took it away. I was so mad. I hate that we’re not allowed to have electronics. I miss my game and watch!
Speaking of bat mitzvah and electronics, I really really really really want a real Donkey Kong machine for my bedroom. Please!
Also what I don’t like about Janice is how she says good night.
She always comes over with nothing on but a t-shirt, no underwear or anything, and her pubes are in my face. She has red hair. So bushy. That’s the only bad thing about a bottom bunk. The other counselor, Jamie, is quiet and breathy. Except when we’re gardening and she sings Johnny Appleseed really loud. The counselors all garden topless. We figured out their boobs swing the most when they pick string beans.
We asked Jamie if she had a boyfriend. She said “I wouldn’t be very good with a boyfriend.” Maybe guys don’t like her.
We had a rope swing date with our brother cabin from Timberlake.
None of the boys brought towels and we didn’t want to share ours because we didn’t want their nude dicks on our towels. Jamie said “you know boys are much cleaner down there.” We still didn’t share our towels.
A guy likes me this year. His name’s Matt. His best friend, Chip likes Jessica. Chip is half her height but he has a cute face. They walked us to the fence from our square dance. That’s all I’m going to tell you.
Will you bring chocolate chip cookies on visiting day? I told Amanda yours are really good. She wants to try them.
If you were going to write a letter home from camp or the summer when you were 12, what would it say? Share a snippet.
Or, got questions about my hippy Quaker nudie camp? I’ll answer them.