For the next two weeks, I’ll be participating in The Scintilla Project. What that means: they’ll be e-mailing me prompts, and I’ll be writing on them. And if I fall behind, maybe this whole experiment will drag out for more than two weeks.
Want to join in? Click here.
Day 1: Tell a story set at your first job.
I have always spent my summers in swimsuits. At the cabin, in the Wisconsin Dells, in my Godmother’s pool.
When I was little, lifeguarding was something that other people did, and not me.
I don’t know how it is that my mother decided that she was going to sign a too young for the course-me up for the Red Cross Lifeguarding Class, but there I was, with a bunch of jaded 16 year-olds in a pool in Shoreview.
And then there I was, at Girl Scout camp. I was at Camp Greenwood.
Did you know I was a Girl Scout? Because I am. A lifetime member. With my Gold Award. Which is the equivalent of being an Eagle Scout. Somehow I feel that we’ve managed to bypass All Of This in the last nearly five years.
But there it is, and here we are now. Back to camp.
Living in a staff cabin in Pine Grove and then Willow Hollow, with all of my earthly possessions tucked into a Rubbermaid tub at the end of my bed, and a tiny plastic dresser pressed into service as a nightstand. My post-WWII bed a steel frame with steel mesh.
They don’t make beds like that anymore.
I’ve thought about camp often lately.
Last weekend, my mother and I drove out to Camp Lakamaga, for a service unit overnight at Her Camp.
I have never been there before, which only now strikes me as strange. But that is neither here nor there.
We drove down to the troop cabin to leave our things. Standing in the middle of the snowy woods, she began to tell me every story all at once. About the units. About the buildings. About her people.
I made her stop, so that we could get back into the car, drive to the entrance and do it properly. Selfishly, I did not want to rush the moment. I wanted to live it all with her.
We began again.
So there I stood, in the middle of the darkened dining hall as she danced the hora around me (she learned it there), and told me everything about everything. It all came pouring out.
And this is where it all made sense. She wanted to create this for me.
She wanted for me to be able to measure my days standing on the end of a dock, wading in the shallows, floating on a diving raft, driving a pontoon.
Theme-ing for dinners and dancing for hours at the Hootenanny. Singing about alligators on the porch.
It was not all glamour.
Running a half-mile barefoot over gravel in a swimsuit to get to the boat landing. Hand-disposing of the rotting carcass of a 10 pound carp on my beach. Lassoing a dead raccoon out from beneath the staff cabin porch in Maple Ridge. Diving for a missing swimmer at 7:00 AM on the last day of camp (it was a false alarm).
The lifeguarding was a means to an end.
She wanted me to leave the nest. And over three summers I would. But not without leaving for a place that was Worth Going To.