Illustration: Alanna Rizza

Camp nostalgia

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By Premila D’Sa

So here’s the thing: Every summer my parents would see me off, driving me to a random parking lot with big yellow school busses that were set to roll me out three hours away from them. I was part of a Canadian youth military program and every summer my parents made sure I was signed up for some important-sounding course that had me living on a military base for a couple of weeks.

It was the best part of their summer. God were they real fucking glad to get their daughter off a couch, away from her beloved Buffy reruns. They also felt good even though I was miles away from them. “She’s receiving lessons in discipline,” they thought, “Personal responsibility, generally building a good, dependable character,” they thought.

Little did they know every year they sent their sweet sheltered suburban daughter to a mecca of degeneracy.

If you ask me now, as a 20-year-old, to describe sleepaway camp, I’ll give you three words: Sex, shenanigans, average camping skills.

The biggest problem that camp had was reminding us of the rules constantly. One morning while we were lined up, some counsellors came down to talk to us about some basic housekeeping. No fraternizing? Standard. No sharing personal items? Some people really do need the reminder. No gambling? Yeah, okay. Wait what?

No gambling?

I’ll assure you of it right now: not a one of us came to camp with the slightest inclination to start gambling. When the counsellor mentioned it we all looked at each other like we were cavemen first discovering fire.

That night there were at least three illegal poker games after 6 p.m. We gambled anything we could—money, obviously. But good candy, fancy laundry detergent, shower products—real important commodities at camp.

Let’s get back to the no fraternizing part. Yeah, when you put a bunch of hormonal teenagers together in a small space in the hot summer sun that’s not going to happen. The most shocking part of camp are the weird places people found to do things. Beds? Those are for amateurs that wanted to get caught. Kids got creative, hiding in the bushes near the lake, the canoes that were left on dry land, any random sheds. Why did every camp have an unused random shed?

There’s also this unknown effect that takes over you at camp that makes you consider people you know you wouldn’t give the time of day to when those yellow buses took you back home. I had my fair share of bad camp flings. This one summer it was a boy, let’s call him Country Sam. It started out great—Sam grew up in a small town while I grew up in the city, so it was nice learning about a different way of life from him.

He showed me how to fish, how to just chill out on grass. He tried introducing me to country music (big nope). But when summer came to an end, we went on our separate busses and headed back home. As soon as I got back to the city, the light hit me and I looked back at that fling. I couldn’t believe that I spent most of a summer missing out on hanging with cool camp buddies so I could sit on some grass with a boy I had nothing in common with while pretending to like country music. Country music.

When I returned the next summer I learned to value my friendships and my time. I now speak up for what I want (no country music!).

Looking back at camp I didn’t realize how great it was to have a place to fuck up, and then be able to leave those fuck-ups behind and come back home. Whenever I’m caught up in the bustle of adulthood, I’m nostalgic for the moments I was running around like a stupid little camper. Those summers taught me a lot about friendship, love (good, and very bad) and of course, petty crime.

Every adult that experienced the unadulterated bliss of sleepaway summer camps keeps the secrets of those summers hidden away. That is until we run into someone who didn’t go to camp, then we want to talk your fucking ear off about all the cool shit you missed out on. Just don’t tell our parents about it.

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