I will start by saying that I’m totally projecting. I’M the Jew who went slightly “mild,” AND, “mild” rhymes nicely with “wild” of the posts from two summers ago, “Jews Gone Wild Parts I and II.” I can’t have a bunch of hysterical and defensive Jews on my hand. Not with this hangover.
In all actuality, I wasn’t all THAT mild. I did begin drinking (wine in stadium size cups) at noon. Less than 2 hours later, I was asking around for a menthol cigarette with a slight tinge of desperation. Like so many others, camp is the ONLY place I smoke, every two years. I swore up and down that I wouldn’t this year and well, I found myself buying my first pack of cigarettes in two years ($9.45?????? I remember when they were 75 cents. I say this with full knowledge that I’m dating myself.) I ordered the most non-cigarette of cigarettes, the “un”-cigarette-Virgina Slims Ultra Lights, words that have never come out of my mouth. A young gay man standing behind me who I hadn’t noticed, whispered in my ear “Those are girly cigarettes” and I said “OOOH, GURL, SNAP” and we sashayed out of the gas station like RuPaul. Okay the sashaying part didn’t happen. Maybe in Provincetown but certainly not in Winsted, Connecticut.
I have said this before and I will say it again–there is NOTHING like being at a place where I spent 15 summers of my life. Being with these people is like being at Woodstock without the acid and tents, and no one is naked, at least in public. It’s bear hugs and lip kisses and rotating one-on-one time, bringing each other up-to-speed on the things that have happened during the two years since we’ve all been together. With the women, it’s talking about the onset of menopause and how we pee when we sneeze and laugh. I’m not exactly sure what the men talk about.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, my dear friend Beth was hawking Tootsie Pop Drops like a secret plant from the company. They’ve been around since the ’70s and I’m not quite sure how she didn’t know this. She developed a sales pitch and offered them to everybody. Nothing buffered her enthusiasm more than when one of the guys said “They’re like Tootsie Pops but you don’t have to fuck with the stick.”
We watched from the bleachers as middle-aged men played 1/2 court basketball. They wheezed and sweat but didn’t let-up for a second. Like years before, one of them ended up injured and Beth and I watched in awe as our camp mate chiropractor worked with great patience and care on the what seemed like a very painful injury. I offered up the (prescribed) painkillers I travel with and within seconds our resident anesthesiologist was looking it up on a drug reference app to make sure he could take it with alcohol.
The success of some of these people is accompanied by a humility I’ve never seen before. The publisher of one of the most successful magazines today and the owner of the most famous bakery in New York City who kicked-off our country’s obsession with cupcakes are experiencing the weekend like the rest of us. They sleep in the bunks with their friends and have beers in their hands, putting their busy lives behind them without a thought. There are attorneys, hedge fund managers, professors, great parents and butchers and bakers and candlestick makers. I’m collecting unemployment but people came up to me all weekend saying “I love your blog posts about prison,” or “I loved your post about your best friend,” and I had NO idea they even read my work. Based on Facebook comments everyone said how happy they were for me that I had found my true love, and based on my husband’s comments knew that he is a great guy.
I shared a hotel room with my friend Beth who is pretty sure she was bitten by bed bugs all over her arms. Judging by the MANY burn holes in our blankets it is entirely possible. She knows me VERY well and got my full-on rules about how she needed to conduct herself in our room as to indulge my well-known high-maintenance need for sleep. On the first night when she was reading a library book with a very crinkly book jacket I got slightly hysterical. On the second night when she barreled into our room at 3:30 in the morning I considered getting up and driving home. The following morning when she woke up making sounds like an old man in a nursing home I resolved to get my own room next time. We laughed with each other all weekend. Her Brooklyn girl appeared for 48 hours. There’s nothing quite like the Brooklyn girl in Beth.
Sadly, we have gotten to the age where we are starting to experience the death of many people we have known from summers past. There are those who died in their twenties and those who have died in their ’70s. We held a very touching candlelight memorial in their honor, floating lit candles, personal words written on paper plates, and floated them in the lake. We used to do this on the last night of camp, writing memories of the summer just ending, so this time took on a very different meaning. It moved us all as we thought silently of these significant losses.
We spent our last night at the same bar we had spent the night before, the hours ticking down until we had to re-enter our routines back home. It’s a bizarro universe we’re in for 48 hours where full-on breakfasts for 5 people ends up under $40, and shots of tequila are served in little medicine cups. Not only did I have my king-sized Tempur-Pedic beckoning me but I found myself really missing my husband, my daughter and even my lunatic dog. With my head in his lap I showed my husband pictures and videos of the weekend on Facebook and I’m waiting for the onslaught that will appear today. I will yell at my friends for posting bad pictures of me and force them to take them down. I will get wistful for those lovely, smiling pictures of people whose faces haven’t changed in over 30 years. It’s entirely possible that we will be doing this well into our 60s when we will still always feel like teenagers.