April 30, 2008 § 2 Comments
I stood beside my green nylon suitcase, waving to my parents as they rumbled away down the dirt road in the navy blue Chevy citation, my baby sister bouncing around in the ‘way back’ of the hatchback, free from the shackles of today’s carseat laws. One week at camp. I was alone with my thoughts and baby blue Zipps, my fears and my denim shorts, my anticipations and my pink t-shirt, just a little too small. Stretched over my nine year old tummy was an adorable jungle cat iron on, beneath it a heartwrenching political statement in multicolored glitter:
Pumas: Our little endangered friends
Growing up in a Christian household, my sister and I were not brownies or girlscouts – we were Pioneer Girls. It was the same really , except that in addition to earning badges for “camp cookery” and “map reading”, we got points for “discipleship” and “Bible knowledge”. With Pioneer Girls came Camp Cherith, an all girls summer camp where I learned how to ride horseback, identify wildflowers on a hike and properly fold an American flag after we said the pledge of allegiance each morning.
It was at Camp Cherith that I had my first encounter with homesickness.
As I ate my breakfast, picking at the bowl of prunes that my mother instructed them to feed me each morning, I thought about my family, sitting at the kitchen table with a box of donuts from Wegmans. I pictured them laughing, remarking about how great life was now that I was gone.
“What if we just left her there? What if we moved back to Chicago, right next door to Grandma and just left her there?”
And they would laugh and grab for another chocolate glazed.
I ate another prune and visualized the camp closing for the winter, all the counselors leaving, asking me one last time:
“Are you sure they’re coming to pick you up?”
They always did. But homesickness has followed me all my life.
When I got to college, I quickly discovered that going to a STATE school means everyone goes home on the weekend, and I was left alone in a strange town, in a dorm, with no mom to make meatloaf, no dad to watch baseball, no couch to curl up on while reading Garfield Books. I often called my parents just to hear what they were doing, to try and insert myself into their activities, to visualize life in picturesque Western New York, so far away from the flat, beige, Ohio prairie.
And even now, grown up, a wife, a mother, I get homesick for the orange and brown flowered wallpaper in the old kitchen, the smell of the fireplace, the way the trees looked at twilight when I walked home from the library. I would love to go back and be ten again, just for a week maybe, to eat dinner and do some homework and lounge on the couch and go to the busstop and get a free cookie from Star Markets and then sit back in a baby blue iron on t-shirt, arms crossed, a smile on my face, and really truly cherish how great I had it.