I drove back from the camp reunion yesterday. That sounds so silly – a camp reunion. The last time I had been there was oh, 38 years ago plus or minus. I’ll cut to the end in case you need to know the ending first – I had a far, far better time than my anxieties suggested I would.
The hills seemed steeper, the bunk beds lower. The stage I sang on – waaaay smaller. I was recognized and remembered by people who I was sure considered me totally inconsequential. I had the chance to see women-who-were-once-girls – my girls, and I hugged them with almost the same proprietary sense of love that I felt for them when they thought I was tall (at a whopping 4’11”) and they were indeed quite small. I was astounded by some people who spoke of the difference I made while I was there – for such comments came from people who I was sure barely knew I existed.
In some ways so much was the same, and in other ways history was rewritten with a gentle hand. The delicate balance between the teen-aged me and the adult me remained carefully calibrated to prevent any old hurts from reappearing. And yet, I discovered that such protection wasn’t necessary, for that which I remembered had been softened and altered by others’ oral histories. Time has been generous with people’s memories of me and permits me to think far more kindly of those summers when I was sure that I had one foot perpetually outside the ‘cool’ circle. I did – and now it is okay – then, it was torture.
The girls? The girls are still all incredible. A writer (who along with her partner suffered my ambivalence with such kindness – and a little wine – over the weekend), a talent agent and producer, moms, doctors, teachers, non-profit volunteers. Most happily married, some perhaps not; some struggling with health challenges, others with tales of survival. We spoke of our own kids, ranging in age from pre-teen to adult. The guys? Warm, funny, far more expansive as grown ups (and I’m not talking waist size) – and they’ve learned how to hug with heart.
It’s a funny kind of withdrawal one has when driving away with adolescence so clearly visible in the rear view mirror. I cried as I waved goodbye, confident that with my high level of immaturity, I would see that girl again soon. But the others who crowded my heart as I left? Who knows what surprises life holds? It is true though – they have never left my heart.