“Why is this minute taking so long? Has it always been this hard?” I said aloud as I was treading water in the murky lake at Camp Pinecliffe with eight girlfriends.
We had arrived at camp the night before for the 100th Anniversary reunion. All nine of us were in our 50s and had not attended this all-girls camp in over 30 years. I eagerly anticipated the weekend but was nervous too. What if no one remembered me? Who would be in my bunk? And oh my God, those uncomfortable cots with the scratchy wool blankets. My closest friends from camp had stayed in better touch with each other than I had – would I feel left out? I really didn’t want it to be like Middle School and I craved the connection with those friends.
I walked up to the registration desk and Jilly and Lizzie grabbed my hand and dragged me to Bunk Four.
“C’mon, Sandy, Kathy, Emily, Lauren, Nancy and Patty are waiting to see you.” And with that, I was in.
The nine of us were the first at the waterfront on Saturday morning to take the swim test. I remember my very first swim test when I was eight years old – I failed! I had never swum in a lake and didn’t know I could. While I was confident in my swimming abilities at age 52, the treading water was harder than I remembered.
“You all passed. You are free to swim anywhere and do all waterfront activities.”
“Let’s go down the slide!” Lizzie said with enthusiasm.
Oy, the slide, I thought to myself. Did we even have a slide when I went to camp? It looks kind of high. I am a joiner, so I swam over to the slide.
“Wheee! Oh my God, that was SO fun. Let’s do it one more time,” I said. There was something so exhilarating about whooshing down the slide and splashing into the lake. So much for the care I took with my hair the day before. Lake hair, don’t care.
“C’mon, we have to get to the waterski dock before a line forms.” Sandy said. Mind you, it was not quite 9 am but we had a full day in front of us.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to take the second ski in the boat just in case.” The 12-year-old boat driver (OK, I am sure he was in his early 20s, but I’m not sure he shaved yet) asked me for a second time.
“Oh, I’m sure.” Do NOT doubt a Pinecliffe skier from the 1970s!
The boat slowly pulled away and I waited for the slack to tighten on the rope, bending my knees, straightening my arms and praying that my confidence on the dock would translate in the water. The truth is, when we were campers, we all spent as much time as we could at the ski dock because the two male counselors were dreamy. Ask any Pinecliffe camper from the late 70s about Mike and Matt and they will blush as they recall their teenage crush.
“Hit it!” I yelled and off I went. I felt like I was floating on the water – each cut in and out of the wake leaving a spray of foam behind me.
When the boat took a spin by the dock, I threw the rope and slowly sunk into the water. As excited as I was to slalom ski in front of all my friends, I did NOT need a second loop. I was definitely not 15 anymore – muscles that I didn’t even know I had, were screaming at me for days.
“We rock!” Lauren said. “All nine of us got up on one ski on the first try!” Take that you pre-pubescent boat driver!
“Now let’s tube! Karen, come in the tube with me.” Emily said and my joiner instinct kicked in again. I don’t think I have ever laughed as hard as I did the entire tube ride, and the proof was in the sore abs the next day.
Around 4:00, I asked “Don’t we get a rest hour at camp anymore?”
This was after tennis and softball in addition to all the watersports. We were walking up the Pine Path singing and cheering. Like most things at Camp Pinecliffe, the Pine Path hadn’t changed at all in 30 years. Strolling up the slight incline toward bunk row, my towel wrapped around my waist, returned me to my 12-year-old self and some of my happiest memories.
“Time to get ready for the white party tonight. Pre-game is in our bunk.” Patty said.
The one difference about camp in your 50s is the beer and wine at night, BYO of course. We all dressed in our Pinecliffe whites, armed ourselves with beer and wine and marched down to the shed singing at the tops of our lungs. I looked around as hundreds of women, all dressed in white, ate lobster and corn on cob, just like we did every summer on Captain’s Night. I marveled at how we could be transported back to those happy, carefree summers.
“Oh my God, honey,” I said to my husband when I walked in the house. “I had the best weekend. It was girl power all weekend long. My cup is full.”