“Summer camp is an essential part of a well-rounded, All-American upbringing,” said a child life specialist somewhere at some point in time.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend sleep-away camp during the summer after 5th grade. Nestled in a small town outside Providence, Rhode Island, the camp was called Camp Fuller, but I remember it best as “Camp Fuller by The Sea.” If you’re interested in learning more about Camp Fuller, be sure to check out this super informative and meticulously edited Urban Dictionary entry written by a former camper. Let’s call her Katie. Katie describes Camp Fuller as “An awesome sleep away camp in Wakefield, Rhode Island that many who attend refer to as the shittt!” If you don’t read it for her fascinating take on the camp’s social hierarchy, read it to see Katie butcher the spelling of basic words like “attention,” “counselor,” and “division.”
Until Camp Fuller I’d only gone to day camp. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I excelled as a day camper…crushed it at typical camp activities like drip drip drop, Popsicle stick art, talent shows, sports, and of course, the cornerstone of every camp experience, Beach Day. Beach day was my favorite day because I loved the beach like Hillary loves pant suits. That’s a lot. I’ve had one bad beach day in my life and that’s the day I spent sitting on a towel in order to conceal a very large tear in my suit. At that age, one hole in your bathing suit gone unnoticed can jeopardize the rest of your camp career. Luckily I was able to walk away with my pride still intact.
I was perfectly content as a day camper, and I could have very happily gone on to be the Van Wilder of Camp Almost Anything Goes. But bigger and better things waited just beyond the horizon. Sleep-away camp allured me like the last slice of pizza. At the ready age of 10, being out in the world on my own sounded new and exciting. And so it was settled. I would be attending Camp Fuller for one 2-week session. I pictured myself paddling a kayak while the sun set, sitting around a roaring bonfire while Chad, the sensitive and artistic counselor, played the guitar, and meeting my long lost twin after an aggressively over-acted fencing match.
I remember a lot about Camp Fuller, and not just because I was sober, but because I enjoyed most of my time there. I remember waking up to Britney Spears’ first CD…the director would blast it from her cabin for all to hear. One of the most distinct memories I have was being asked by someone waiting for the shower if I had peed in the shower right after I did in fact pee in the shower. I looked at her like she was crazy and assured her that I did not pee in the shower because ew, these are public showers. For the record, I think you’re weird if you DON’T pee in the shower every now and then. It saves water AND paper.
I remember every girl in my cabin and could probably pick them out in a line, but the cabin mate I remember most is the chick who slept above me. Her name was Jen and she was an enigma to me. She had hair down her back and brushed it everyday for about an hour(!) She also had fully developed breasts which supported my “Wet Hot American Summer” theory that she was actually much older and posing as a 11-year-old to fulfill a childhood dream, or to write an investigative piece on Camp. We had two counselors living in a room attached to our cabin. One was named Cassandra, and the other, a Brit named Lucy. Between her British flag shirt and her blonde hair, Lucy was pretty much the closest thing to Baby Spice that I’d ever met, making it extremely hard to dislike her. The other counselor, Cassandra, was American, but was fired about 26 hours into camp after divulging her greatest fear (being raped) to a room full of prepubescent girls. Lucy did nothing to improve the situation. She said her fear was being buried alive, which is a very rational fear to have but probably not something you want to share with younger girls…If I remember correctly, I think I said mine was sharks. My fears have taken a much darker turn since then – now it’s guys my age who wear Abercrombie and Hollister and hangovers lasting over 12 hours.
I remember a lot of the girls at camp, but none better than Ksenia…or maybe it was Xenia. Either way, she had a silent letter tacked onto the beginning of her name, like some kind of celebrity’s baby. I mean at least the ‘X’ in my name stands for something. I was convinced she was part human, part cat after watching her climb the rock wall. I’ve never seen anyone climb a rock wall with such grace and speed. She even climbed it blindfolded and with her feet tied. Fucking Ksenia and her silent K and her Russian gymnast strength and discipline. I think every guy was in love with her (this was before the boys watched me stuff three marshmallows in my mouth on a dare).
Camp Fuller was where I made my first African American friend. His name was Lance and he wore classic Timberland boots and braids like Lil’ Wayne. All the girls loved him because he had what we would later refer to as swag. He was in my water skiing class but he never actually went water skiing, he just skipped rocks and sat on this huge boulder like a boss. Swag for days.