Continued from yesterday’s post, Camp Muddy Stream: Part 1…
We were moving apartments that summer, and the night before I left for Muddy Stream was the last one I would spend at the only apartment I could ever remember living in. I spent most of that last night at home sobbing hysterically, both at the prospect of leaving our apartment for the last time (what can I say, I’m a sentimental soul), but also because I’d only just actually realized that going away to camp meant that for the first time in my life, I was about to be away from my immediate family for an extended period of time.
Sure, I’d been on sleepovers by the time I was 9 – roughly 20 of them, in fact – but I’d been picked up early from 18 of those 20. On one failed sleepover, I’d crept out into the dark living room of a girl I went to school with and called my house after she and everyone else in her family had gone to bed. I remember whispering anxiously into their landline phone when my father answered, “No, Dad – tell Mom NOT to call back on their house line. I’ll call you again in ten minutes,” like I was Harriet the fucking Spy. Of course, five minutes later, I heard their phone ring, and when the girl’s mother came into her room to see if I was awake, I was sitting on their guest cot in the dark with my bag packed, already wearing my coat. (In my defense, this was after my playdate had told me to bring my Beanie Babies over so we could play with them, and then proceeded to play with them by lining up my sad little collection of two Beanie Babies on the floor, stomping on each one, and then informing me that “Beanie Baby playtime was over.” What gall! So you really can’t blame me for not wanting to stick around for a morning of waffles and more abuse; but I digress.)
It was always too goddamn hot in everyone else’s apartment for me to fall asleep there. Time after time, I would agree to a sleepover at some friend’s house. Everything would be fine all afternoon and night, and then bedtime would roll around, at which point I’d find myself lying wide awake in whatever makeshift bed my hosts had prepared for me, schvitzing like a pig and wishing I was home. Finally, I wouldn’t be able to take it anymore, and I’d call my mother to come pick me up.
The night before I left for Muddy Stream, it dawned on me that there would be no coming home from Maine. Even if I missed my parents – and I knew I would, I already did, even though they were sitting next to me on my bed – and even if I was too hot to sleep, I’d be stuck there in a tent in Maine. I think I slept for a grand total of half an hour that night before we had to leave the apartment and get a cab to the sidewalk in front of the Museum of Natural History, where the bus was picking us campers up at 7:00am.
As we pulled up to the curb behind the coach bus, I felt like I was walking the plank. Shockingly, none of the other girls that were waiting for the bus seemed to care that they were about to leave their loving, wonderful, kind and supportive parents and sister for 8 whole weeks. They were joking around with each other, shrieking in a fun-loving little girl kind of way and ignoring their families already. I, on the other hand, was crying silently, wearing my mother’s sunglasses and acting like a homesick bummer before the summer had even begun.
When it came time for me to board the bus, I deliberately sat in the seat right behind the driver next to the window so that I could wave goodbye to my parents and sister for what felt like an eternity. Then, as the driver finally revved the engine and we pulled away from the sidewalk to begin our long drive to Maine, I saw my mother’s mouth quiver, and I realized that she was crying, too. This only increased the intensity of the wracking sobs that were now loudly and uncontrollably emanating from my mouth. I was very visible up there in the front row of the bus, and I can still remember making awkward eye contact with the bus driver as I hyperventilated into my pillow, slumped over against the window, my hair plastered to my face with tears. The look of pity and disgust on that man’s face is still etched into my mind’s eye to this day, almost 25 years later.
After a while, crying became too exhausting, so I rested weakly until we pulled up to a winding dirt road that led through the woods next to a sign that said “Muddy Stream: ½ mile.” I’d spent most of my life in the tri-state area; this was definitely the farthest away from home that I’d ever been, and I was captivated by the sheer number of pine trees we passed by on the last leg of our drive to the camp. It was like being in Narnia. I perked up a little bit; maybe this summer wouldn’t be so terrible, after all.
How wrong I was.