It’s that time of year again — summer solstice has turned the air soft, sweet, and warm, and kids everywhere are packing up and heading off to camp.
If I could throw myself into a trunk or a duffle bag, believe me, I would. There are many excellent things about being a grown-up, but not spending the lazy, hazy daze with no greater stress than getting yourself to fourth period after rest hour — I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t wish they were back at camp?
This summer my camp celebrates its 65th year, and I’m debating going back for the auspicious occasion. Then again, I’m with Thomas Wolfe — you can’t go home again. And actually, I don’t necessarily need to go anywhere.
Once a camper, always a camper.
Don’t believe me? Here are 100 reasons you’ll always be a camper:
100) When you wake up each morning, a bugle goes off inside your head, ensuring you’re definitely up for the day. Bonus points if it includes a record crackle and someone telling you to “wakey, wakey, wakey!” (Or some equally horrible/excellent early morning greeting.)
99) Lakes infested with water snakes, nasty fish, leeches, and snapping turtles don’t scare you. Chlorinated pools, on the other hand, do.
98) Even if you’re not particularly athletic, you are super competitive. Because you know that a keen sense of trivia, the ability to balance, say, an egg on a spoon, cheering louder than the rest (and losing your voice to prove it) or being really good at charades and other group games is as crucial to winning as anything else.
97) Give you a handful of jacks, and you could keep yourself busy for a solid hour or more. (Just pass the baby powder if you’re playing on a wooden floor.)
96) You can whip out a French braid in two-minutes flat — on yourself or on a friend. And if you’re a dude, you at least know what a French braid is.
95) You’ve known the excitement of a Color War break, and you sometimes tap into that feeling when you need the power to crush any obstacle in your path for not just yourself, but also for your comrades and perhaps the good of humanity overall.
94) Similarly, when you face a difficult situation, somewhere in the back of your mind you hear, “You can do it, [name here], you can do it. You can do it [name here] nuthin’ to it.” Or whatever pump-you-up cheer you prefer, but it MUST have multiple claps for maximum impact. Bonus points for cheering out loud in every day situations.
93) You know the lyrics to pretty much the entire James Taylor catalog, notably “You’ve Got a Friend.”
92) Showering is optional, especially if there’s a lake nearby.
91) You keep several types of stationary on hand, just in case anyone feels like swapping with you. Bonus points for stationary with rainbows or really cool typography.
90) You can easily rough it, as long as there’s an outlet somewhere for your hairdryer and they don’t take away your donuts on Sunday morning.
89) “Stairway to Heaven” makes you super horny.
88) You still remember your first “real” kiss… and it was in the last five minutes of a social.
87) You can short-sheet a bed. And maybe you do that every so often to your kids’ beds for shits ‘n giggles.
86) You have oddball talents from balancing a spoon on your nose, to singing in a convincing falsetto, lighting your farts on fire, and/or finding a white lifesaver in a plate of whipped cream… with your hands tied behind your back. Bonus points if you do any of the above at least a few times a year.
85) Tie-dying a t-shirt, shorts, a bra/ jock strap, socks, a sheet, a sweatshirt, a scrunchie, or anything you can get your hands on is a snap. You can also wing it with a pack of Kool-Aid if there’s no real tie-dye on hand.
84) Mad-libs are your jam.
83) You can sleep anywhere, although you prefer the top bunk.
82) Give you a handful of string, and you can Cat’s Cradle like a mo’fo.
81) Do you canoe? Oh yes, you do!
80) You lost your virginity at camp… to a wake that road up a touch too high when you were getting up on one ski.
79) You’ve had lice. Or at least thought you did.
78) You’re a hugger. And aren’t afraid to kiss your best friend and say I love you… and mean it.
77) You can rhyme almost any word, and you at times overuse words like pep, zest, and spirit.
76) Pitching a tent is no biggie, although you’d prefer it if your counselor did it.
75) Buses make you feel excited, or alternatively, unspeakably sad.
74) You shove your family members out of the way each day as you race to get the mail. Secretly you suspect today is the day you’ll FINALLY get that care package you’ve been waiting for that includes comic books and Tiger Beat magazines with sticks of gum taped inside of them. Bonus points if you can’t mask your disappointment when the aforementioned care package doesn’t arrive, and the mail doesn’t include any good letters for you. (Bills DEFINITELY don’t count!)
73) After lunch, you need about an hour — a rest hour, to be exact — to recover from the morning’s activities. Sometimes this is a blatant nap time, and other times, like at work, you keep your rest hour to yourself.
72) You have a poster tacked up over your bed. (Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Scott Baio — pick your poison!)
71) You know all the words to “Summer Lovin.” Well, that and all of the songs from Grease, and a million other classic musicals — whether you acted in them or just used them as songs for Color War, for someone that almost never goes to the theater, you have an amazing repertoire. Bonus points if you whip out a show tune at least once a day, depending on the trigger word. (i.e., “Tonight” from West Side Story, “So Long, Farewell” from The Sound of Music, etc.)
70) You’re a kick ass tennis player or at least have a handful of activities you enjoy doing on a tennis court. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more…)
69) When your kid has a class project, you can make bubble letters for his/her poster like no tomorrow. And your calligraphy isn’t half-bad, either. Also, you think every poster looks much better with at least one rainbow and/or as many stickers as possible.
68) You get your period at the same time as all of your friends. And you know this because you ask.
67) If you could bottle the smell of pine trees and lake water, you would.
66) You love restaurants that have communal dining tables because it reminds you of the camp mess hall.
65) S’mores are your favorite dessert, and if hard-pressed, you can roast a marshmallow like a champ (brown not black!) over a gas burner.
64) From all those years of star gazing, you can rattle off most of the constellations. Or at least a dirty version of what the constellations might be.
63) You occasionally wear white socks with flip-flops or Birkenstocks. Oh, and you have Birkenstocks.
62) When your parents come to your house, you secretly hope they’ll bring you red pistachio nuts, or at least a can of Pringles.
61) You’re a pro at using Sun-In, Neet, and Jolene Cream Bleach… and now that you think about it, why do you spend so much on your hairdresser and esthetician?
60) You also remember how much Johnson’s Baby Oil or Hawaiian Tropic, SPF-0 that you slathered on yourself and pray that the skin damage was only temporary.
59) You keep a flashlight by your bed, just in case you feel like reading under the covers without waking anyone up.
58) You can still recite from heart certain passages of Forever and Wifey. Or whatever semi-pornographic novel was popular at your camp and/or in your era.
57) You are a master atomic wedgie-giver. You also can throw down a mean titty-twister (regardless of if you’re a male or a female), and know exactly how to make someone wet his or her bed. In other words, you could go work for the CIA without any additional training.
56) You turn pretty much any song into a camp song. (See #94, #77, #71)
55) The call of a loon doesn’t freak you out; in fact, you find it soothing.
54) You only do your laundry once a week, and without fail, you always find yourself wondering where the hell the van is to pick it up today and hope that all will be returned — slightly pink or gray but definitely commercially clean — tomorrow.
53) Your internal clock is set to a countdown that begins in mid-August, and ends in late June. In other words, you live ten months for two.
52) You know what Bug Juice is, and you’re not afraid to drink it. In fact, you have whipped up a batch at home, and realized that a shot of vodka is just what it needs to cut the five pounds of sugar and cloying “tropical” flavor.
51) If you ever feel like you need a good cry, you just channel the last campfire and/or the bus ride home from camp.
50) You can’t really eat watermelon in public because without fail it turns into a seed-spitting contest, and who needs that at a company picnic? (Well, maybe everyone does…!)
49) If you ever see a person wearing clothing with your camp logo on it, you are compelled to immediately engage him/her, do at least one camp cheer with him/her, and give him/her a giant hug when you part ways.
48) Your camp color(s) are your favorite color(s). (NOTE: My camp’s color is pink, which admittedly is a struggle for a punk rock soul. The introduction of purple as its complement has made it easier for my color nostalgia.)
47) You send your kids to camp. Bonus points if it’s the same camp that you went to, so secretly the opportunity to visit the campus and have dinner with old friends is as important to you as giving your children the gift of camp.
46) The smell of fire says campfire to you, always. This is helpful because the smell of fire in real life doesn’t normally come with pleasant feelings.
45) You have a secret costume stash year-round and not just for Halloween… because you never know when you’ll need to dress up or go in drag.
44) You’ve known exactly who you are from a young age because being at camp meant being exactly who you are.
43) There isn’t a ghost story you don’t know — and are secretly a little terrified of. But you’re very good at regaining your composure after your first scream.
42) Whenever you walk down a dirt road, you can’t help but feel nostalgic. Oh, and you seek out dirt roads to walk down, too.
41) Give you the choice between a five-star hotel and a cabin, it’s no contest. You’d stay in the cabin FIRST, and then move to the five-star hotel to take a “real” shower, flush the toilet more than once, and sleep in a bed with a mattress thicker than an infant’s arm.
40) You have a tendency to cheer at mealtimes. And if it’s someone’s birthday… watch out!
39) Speaking of birthdays — your favorite message to send your old camp friends on their special day includes something about kings, or queens, or bishops, too.
38) You got all of your game from camp socials. Or none of it. Either way applies, because camp flings never discriminated.
37) You still have letters from your parents tucked away in a scrapbook or memory box somewhere. And you also might have a note or two from your summer boy/girlfriend, too.
36) You can pick locks like a champ, thanks to your training raiding the camp kitchen and/or canteen.
35) You buy Lipton’s Cup-a-Soup, and prefer to eat it straight from the package.
34) Dining outdoors always transports you to special meals at camp. Now go grill me a damn hotdog, thank you very much.
33) You wear shoes, but then again, you’d rather not.
32) You know how to juggle or rock a hacky sack cuz your favorite counselor taught you all those years ago.
31) Sure you use a toilet, but if you had your druthers, you’d cop a quick squat OR pee on a tree outdoors, and be on your way.
30) You move around in the dark like a Ninja — nobody knows you are there… or gone… until it’s too late.
29) When you’re feeling sad, lonely, trapped, or otherwise bummed, you can close your eyes and think about camp — and let that feeling of pure, unadulterated freedom wash right over you.
28) Before you leave for work in the morning, you tidy the house and pray whoever is inspecting that day doesn’t try to bounce a quarter off your bed. Bonus points if you make your bed. Extra bonus points if you use hospital corners.
27) Your favorite desserts (aside from s’mores) are Whoopie Pies, camp cookies, and for very special occasions, Baked Alaska.
26) Your spirituality involves wearing whites, putting your arms around friends on either side of you, being in nature, hearing a poem that doesn’t exactly rhyme but makes you tear up anyway, listening to the strains of a soft guitar, and singing your heart out.
25) You wish you still had a counselor — to direct you in the day-to-day, be the encouragement you need at just the right time, lend you a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to bring you Dunkin’ Munchkins (or your camp’s equivalent) in the middle of the night.
24) Actually, you wish you could BE a counselor (again if you’ve been one before). Because nobody was cooler, had more fun, or rocked a freakin’ puka shell necklace for a day off like a counselor. Plus is there anything more delicious than a cold beer (or six, or 12) after a long hot day teaching the children how to be better people?
23) There are things you will do for pizza that are incredibly embarrassing but exceptionally memorable at the same time.
22) You are a master of getting busy with your bae in unusual places — in a canoe, under a stage, in a shed, deep in the bushes — you name it, you’ve had to pick twigs out of your hair on more than one occasion.
21) Hiking, even if it’s on your block, makes you feel like you’ve moved mountains… because doing even a quarter mile hike at camp made you feel like you just climbed Mt. Everest.
20) No matter where you are, you can squeeze all you need to survive into four narrow drawers, or better yet, cubbies. Bonus points if the drawers stick. You love the sound of squeaky wood almost as much as the call of a loon (See #55).
19) You dig a person with an exotic accent because the foreigners were the hottest counselors of all. (Thank you, BUNAC!)
18) Whenever there’s a nasty cut, vomiting, a high fever, or basically any ailment to deal with, you secretly wish you could just dump your kid off at the infirmary, steal a cold can of ginger ale from the nurse’s fridge, and be on your way.
17) You also wish you had a maintenance crew, in-house bakers and chefs, and a caretaker for the off-season… at your own house.
16) Rainy days don’t ever get you down. In fact, if you could find a pick-up game of Capture the Flag, you would.
15) You still hide candy in your sock drawer.
14) Sometimes you forget to lock the door of a bathroom stall when you’re out and about because since when do bathroom stalls need locks? At any rate, it’s no biggie if someone accidentally opens the door, as you’re used to getting walked in on during the most embarrassing moments — crapping, changing a tampon, etc.
13) Speaking of bathrooms, toilet paper is by far the most versatile item in your house. It’s perfect for wiping up spills, decorating, wearing as a costume or headband, using as a bookmark, etc.
12) You still find yourself wishing you had a social each and every Saturday night.
11) Whenever you go to a friend’s house, you feel free to help yourself to his/her clothes — even without asking. Sure it’s caused a few awkward situations, but you did finally score that Esprit t-shirt or that Larry Bird jersey you always had your eye on.
10) Laying out in the sun is something you still do, even though it’s not PC or necessarily healthy anymore. A good tan is the sign of a happy camper.
9) Making a fool of yourself is not what scares you — not having a good number for the talent show does. This makes you exceptionally entertaining at company retreats and suburban gatherings.
8) Sisterhood or brotherhood is something you know, love, and live. This is one of the many values that camp taught you that you hold dear. Well, that and the joy of pantsing your most beloved sisters and/or brothers.
7) You know how to fold a flag. And make hospital corners. These two things are not unrelated.
6) You also know how to sail a boat, make gimp/friendship bracelets, shoot an arrow, ride a horse, kick a medicine ball about a mile, and about a million other random leisure activities.
5) You can’t help but sing, “Toooodaaaaayyy is beach day, today is beach day…” every time you go to the shore.
4) Your camp resume is better than your real one — you starred in a play, were the best player on the team, was a Color War captain or co-captain, and/or won awards for your various abilities. You were (and still are) www.thecampshit.com.
3) You have a great deal of Indian lore knowledge — none of it necessarily real — but it sounds convincing, albeit pretty racist when you think about it.
2) While you’re not much of a dancer or a singer, that doesn’t stop you from believing you can choreograph the shit out of any routine and busting one out at the top of your lungs. (See #94, #77, #71, #56, #6, #5)
2 1/2) You still have ALL of your camp yearbooks.
1) Sure you’ve made new friends, but you ALWAYS keep the old. One is silver, and the other’s gold… and you know which one’s which.
So if you see me thanking all of my camp friends for contributing (especially on Facebook — 51 comments and counting!), just know it’s because I’m still connected to them in a profound, life-long way. Because you know, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain… I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end… I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend… but I’ve always thought that I’d see you again.
And in my camp dreams, I see all of my camp friends — don’t you? Because if you do, then you know for sure you’re a camper.
For more on camp, check out my other camp-lovin’ posts: CAMP!, The Art of Color War: 10 Ways Camp Teaches Us To Be Winners, and You Know You’re a Camper When…