You guys remember The Parent Trap? I watched The Parent Trap approximately nine billion times when I was a kid. Both the original one starring Hayley Mills and Hayley Mills and the reboot starring Lindsay Lohan and Lindsay Lohan, as separated identical twins who meet at a summer camp and conspire to reunite their estranged parents. And while all of it stands the test of time, the first third of each film is the best part, because it takes place at the world’s coolest summer camp. I mean… summer camp! It looked so amazing! Weird traditions and bonfires and petty rivalries and cabins and bunkmates and sleeping bags and counselors. There are panty raids and capture the flag and inside jokes about dining hall food!
It always felt so exotic to me because I never did any of that stuff when I was young. Summers were for hanging out at the library and for fighting with your little brother over the best business model for the driveway lemonade stand. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I loved summers as a kid – but the truth is that you can’t do anything terribly exotic when you’re in a small town and anyplace you want to go, you need your mom to give you a lift.
But I would watch The Parent Trap and try to imagine myself in a summer camp alternate universe – a place where I would make lifelong friends and yell songs with made-up lyrics and where, in this fictional delusion, I would be vastly cooler than the dorkosaurus that I so clearly actually was.
What’s funny about remembering all of this now is that I am sure my mom asked if I wanted to go. I remember her putting that option on the table, asking if I had any interest whatsoever in going away for the summer. And I always said no. Truth be told, I think I was afraid. My ten-year-old brain had latched onto one of those unfortunate truths, and one that I’m still working on actively correcting: it feels way safer to exist in the fantasy version of the world than the real one.
It’s been like twenty years since anyone asked me if I wanted to go to summer camp, and frankly, I kind of figured that ship had sailed.
That is, until my friend Ben asked me if I wanted to go to camp with him.
Here’s some stuff about Ben. He’s one of those dudes that I don’t know all that well, but he always manages to lift my spirits whenever I run into him. He can be deeply thoughtful and he can be stubbornly obstinate and he can be very funny, but in a really specific and weird sorta way that isn’t immediately clear at first. I find him really endearing. He gives really great hugs. He geeks out about movie trivia. He’s about to be a really great dad. He thinks before he speaks.
When Ben told me that he worked as a counselor at a summer camp for years, everything about him made way more sense to me.
And when Ben told me that he was opening a “summer camp for adults,” and that he wanted me to come so that I could write about it, I smiled the biggest doofiest grin of all time and accepted on the spot.
Moments later, a crushing wave of fourth-grade panic enveloped me. I clicked on their website and felt alternately exhilarated and nauseous.
“We’ve got a lake, fun-loving counselors, capture the flag, canoeing, sweet cabin living, archery, zip-line, and the camp magic that makes a long weekend feel like a lifetime.”
I am ashamed to admit that I read that sentence and felt pure terror. Like the kid trapped at the end of the diving board, afraid to just take the plunge. What if my bathing suit is dumb and I get a bad sunburn and I don’t have any friends? I will fall off the zipline and break a leg and I will shoot an arrow into my foot or even worse, someone else’s foot. And I will probably hate the food and I have to share a cabin with a complete stranger and I like you a lot, Ben, but I just don’t know I just don’t know I just don’t know.
And then I got over myself and realized that I had been handed a crazy and special opportunity. To get to go back and try again – to do all of the stuff that had scared me as a kid – that is an amazing gift.
And I said yes. And so I’ll be going. To a summer camp in the Poconos for a long weekend of yoga and hammocks and bonfires and sleeping bags. With strangers. It’s nothing I would normally ever do for myself. It’s out of my comfort zone. I’m basically still that kid who feels safer at home reading books about summer camp than actually going out and trying any of that stuff for myself.
And yet I’m going. Sleeping bag and all.
I’m gonna learn so many dumb songs by that campfire, you guys. :)
PS: If you want the details:
If you want to go too, Ben just emailed to say that he can hook my readers up with a discount. $100 off the price.
(Wokka, wokka. I love this. One of you please come with me so that I can say that someone typed in that absurd code).