You Know You're A Camper When…

The sound of a Greyhound bus pulling up makes you totally bipolar; it’s either your greatest joy (going to camp) or your most tear-stained misery (leaving camp).

You love nature, but only really if you can still operate a hair dryer for socials.

You used to have white clothes for Friday night services, but by summer’s end they’re an unidentifiable grayish-pinkish color called, “Camp Laundry.”

You lost your virginity trying to get up on one waterski.

You recognize the significance of your bed-choice: top bunk says daring loner; bottom says wimpy socialite.

Bug juice is your beverage of choice.

You own a trunk, a house-sized duffle bag, or both.

You await the mail each day with baited breath and secretly pray there’s a care package from your mom with candy and gum surreptitiously taped to the pages of comic books and Teen Beat magazines. Nothing says love more than a parent complicit with breaking all the camp rules.

Seemingly useless trivia is your bailiwick.

You hate stuffed animals in real life, but at camp you have enough to make a snuggly line-up to chase away the homesick blues. (Or, conversely, as you move into senior camp, to explain various sexual positions that are tough to verbalize but make complete sense when illustrated by a teddy bear and a stuffed elephant.)

You think eating peanut butter from the jar with a chaser of dry Lipton® Cup-A-Soup® is a perfectly delicious snack.

You lose your virginity on a camp bus — not literally, just when one of those rickety yellow school buses or bare-bones vans taking you and your bunkmates off-campus hits too many rocks on the dirt path into or out of camp. To this day, the strains of “Three Cheers for the Bus Driver,” gives you a cheap thrill.

You know every James Taylor song, especially, “You’ve Got a Friend,” and “Fire and Rain.”

Despite the fact you’re a total slob at home, at camp you can rock a hospital corner, have no fear of scrubbing toilets (since it’s the easiest, fastest job on the cleanup chart), and actually pick-up after yourself because your bunk’s shot at a trip to the local ice cream parlor for cleanest bunk depends on it.

You’ve mastered the art of making two-sentence long letters fill a whole page (thanks to bubble letters and making your handwriting look like your bunkmate’s).

From tie-dye to homemade candles and clay coil pots, you always have an arts ‘n crafts project to fall back on.

You work all year on stupid cabin tricks like blowing your nose with your feet, farting on command, and balancing a spoon on your nose, just so you can be instantly “popular” with any tough crowd, including new bunkmates.

You still have splinters in your fingers from playing jacks on the wood cabin floor.

You would kill for a Whoopie Pie…. and you knew all about them way before they became this year’s cupcake.

You can canoe and kayak, but you still kind suck at the rowboat.

Whenever you binge on the shittiest junk food known to man, you give yourself a “Visiting Day” hall pass to lift your spirits. This helps, but then again, it also makes you miss your parents.

You can whip out a camp cheer in 12-seconds flat, easily making rhymes with impossible words like “victory,” “spirit,” and “sportsmanship.”

You have no issue with trading clothes; in fact, you pray that you’ll end up with something from Esprit.

Showering, unless there’s a social, makes no sense — everyone knows you get clean in the lake.

You still keep the secrets shared with you after lights out.

You still have all of the dirty passages from certain books memorized, and you know what I’m talking about. (Thank you Judy Blume and V.C. Andrews!)

“Have You Ever…” is a game you’ve played once or twice or 17,000 times.

Camp “fashion” is cured by the arrival of Seventeen magazine’s fall issue.

You burst into song multiple times daily and also have an amazing ability to turn any Top-40 song into a cheer, a remembrance, or a sentimental alma mater.

You know how to short-sheet a bed.

You lost your virginity on the balance beam during a first period gymnastics class.

When you watched The Hunger Games you thought, “Katniss is pretty good, but did she ever get “Archer of the Week” at campfire?”

You know several Native American words and phrases, all of which are totally made up but sound good around a campfire.

In 47 minutes or less, (the amount of time left in rest hour after you’ve written a letter home, eaten a candy bar, and changed into your bathing suit) you can write a sketch, choreograph an elaborate dance, or at a bare minimum, get really good at lip-synching a popular song for that night’s talent show. It will someday surprise you how handy this training can be.

You can go in drag feeling secure in your sexuality AND ability to get a cheap laugh.

You are perfectly ok with wearing dirty undies and eating your leftover Charleston Chew even though it’s a month old and you found it open and melted in that said underwear drawer.

The only birthday song you ever sing involves banging on a table and belting out at the top of your lungs, “Kings and queens and bishops too…”

The call of a loon makes you weep. You don’t feel as sentimental about skunks, however.

You know what a raid is, and it does not involve a SWAT Team.

On rainy days in the summer you still pray that “tooooo…daaaaaaay is movie day,” or at the very least, there’ll be a rousing game of mud-soaked Capture the Flag.

Color War or College League cheers ring in your head any time you watch any sort of remote competitive sport. (“You can do it SO and SO, you can do it. You can do it SO and SO nuthin’ to it!”) Your friends and family trying to enjoy the World Cup are currently ready to kill you, even if secretly they admire your sportsmanship and spirit, not to mention your pep and zest.

You sing about daisies on your toe, crabs walking sideways, and lobsters walking straight… and that makes perfect sense to you.

You clap when someone accidentally drops a plate at a restaurant.

You have your name in all of your underwear.

While you may or may not have actually lost your virginity at camp (READ: Little Darlings), you definitely experienced your first major crush, and at least one or two other life-changing firsts.

You have an internal countdown clock that begins in mid-August, and starts loudly ticking, along with your heartbeat, in mid-June. This is an automatic clock with Swiss-like precision that continues from the first year you start camp until… infinity.

You get stopped on the street by a fellow camp alum (who you don’t know) when wearing a camp sweatshirt or they see your bumpah stickah. It’s a cult….

You want to board that bus with your kid. Or maybe instead.

And you get choked up hearing a camp song because memories flood back and you long to be there.

Every camper, no matter from which camp, is your friend.

And you still regard your camp friends as sisters or brothers — no matter how much time has passed.

So if you see me ducking into the back of a camp-bound Greyhound bus, just know that I think it’ll be more comfortable than locking myself in a trunk. Then again, decades later, I can still find my way to camp just by closing my eyes and concentrating on going to my  “happy place.” How about you?

For more on camp and what it’s all about, check previous posts, CAMP! and The Art of Color War: 10 Ways Camp Teaches Us to Be Winners. 

And one more thing, just cuz it bears repeating from an earlier blog post — I bring you my favorite camp recipe (second only to popovers, also a fave as my old bunkmates all know) — WHOOPIE PIES! This recipe is courtesy of my dear friends and former owners of my camp, Camp Matoaka:

For the “pie” (more like chocolate cake) part: 2 cups flour 1/2 cup cocoa 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1 cup sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup Crisco 1 egg 1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla