In the days leading up to this past weekend’s sixth biannual camp reunion, I was under the rather pretentious delusion that I would enter it with a sense of detachment, that I’d be on the sidelines, observing, in preparation for writing this recap post like I do the day after every reunion. On Friday night, one of the guys, another stalwart at these gatherings sat down next to me at the bar and said I seemed different, “more composed” than I usually do but was harkening back to a me from thirteen years ago when after an endless amount of tequila shots I pulled the second all-nighter of my life and actually saw the sunrise. By Saturday night, I found myself spinning and twirling in a room, dancing to a Squeeze song, drink in hand, clearly all detachment thrown out the window. How could I not have? This group of 60 or so people is my comfort zone, my second family.
These weekends are a sort of pilgrimage, a flocking to a sacred place where we can all be ourselves without pretense, without judgment, the stripping down of our outside lives for a couple of days where every smell, every structure, every face is a shared experience, a shared memory. It’s universal among us all. It barely even needs discussing. We know.
As in the past, the two years between these weekends, new relationships are formed through Facebook, usually kicked-off by a comment or two on another person’s post where you discover a new kindred spirit who you didn’t necessarily know that well before. Whether it’s politics, the appreciation of the same music, movies, tv, you anticipate the carving out of time to get to know that person a little better, to turn the virtual into the actual. Those moments have yet to disappoint.
This weekend I was able to be in the right place at the right time as a young woman who hadn’t seen camp grounds in thirty or so years first arrived. I was eager to meet her as she and I are the only two who live in New England, and plus her comments on our alumni page were pretty fucking funny. We chatted for a little while, learning more about each other, along with another regular and rallier and the only other woman from her division. Someone asked her what some of her memories of camp were and she pointed to her former bunkmate and said, “She’s my memory.” My heart leapt at the poignancy of those three words. Not only that, it provided me with the title for this post.
At the time, I took it as such a gorgeous homage to another one of those special camp bonds that we all have. Then I realized that for me, it has a couple of meanings. My camp friends fill in the blanks of my life. They are the keepers of tiny snippets of memories and they are there to remind me of things that I have no recollection of , including how my pre-adolescent thick fingers would always grab for the biggest piece of fried chicken from the family-style platter that was placed in the middle of the table where we ate. After this reunion, my friend mentioned that she’ll never forget me playing Rizzo in a camp production of “Grease.” I played along but I have absolutely no memory of that. So, these friends are “my memory,” but they are also and always will be the snapshots of the visual memories that I still have embedded in my brain.
These weekends, whether or not fueled by alcohol or these new-fangled “edibles” I’ve heard so much about (apparently, if you eat more than a leg off a gummy bear, you’ve had too much) embolden us to say and do things we wouldn’t have the courage to do otherwise. The best part about this is that we walk away, puffed up and confident, like a badge of honor to take with us into our day-to-day lives.
On my bleary-eyed drive home, sandwiched between a James Brown and Allman Brothers song, my clearly disparate Spotify playlist shuffled to “Tradition” from the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack. I’m not making this up for dramatic effect. I smiled and belted it out, sunroof open, and marveled at the very random selection of the song. However in life, I have learned that there ARE no coincidences, that in the end, it all makes perfect sense.