Every time I go to my childhood home, I dig through another box of mementos that have been stored in the closet of my old bedroom for decades since I left for college. Last week, I found a gem: the journal signed by the friends I’d made during three weeks at music camp.
I have wonderful memories of the time I spent there, nestled in woods on the shores of King’s Lake. I remember walking along the trails, drum beats accompanying my strides as violins whistled through the trees, and being overcome by the magical harmonies of our madrigal choir.
I was so nervous to go the first time, thinking everyone would be cooler and prettier than me, and way better musicians. But I remember how quickly those friendships formed in our cabins, over late nights with giddy girls listening to the radio and whispering about crushes on brooding guitar players.
From what’s on the pages of that canvas-covered book I had saved since 1982, those camp kids thought I was super neat!!!
“It was super neat having you in the same cabin,” wrote one girl in her loopy handwriting. “You are a super funny, neat, and sweet person.”
“You are a super, great, funny, cute, loveable and all-around neat person,” another said.
“You are so funny and super nice! You are always so cheery and friendly.”
“Camp would have been very boring without you!!!,” my friend Christine wrote. “You brighten up our day.”
On these lined pages, before social media and cell phones, there was a distinct lack of profanity and not a hint of nastiness, like you hear so much about with teenagers today. The teen verbiage of the ‘80s shined through.
“It’s been, like, a blast at camp this year. Like, I had a lot of massively fun times. You’re an awesome gal with a mega sense of humor and a totally excellent singing voice.”
“Things have been mega quad this year,” wrote a guy named Jeff. “You may be dingy, but your heart holds much goodness, and I believe (why I don’t know) that reality will be good to you.”
He continued with the most explicit entry in the book: “Lots of luck, love, success, happiness, and great sex (not too heavy on the last one.)”
And from another boy, with whom I had shared some summertime drama.
“Thank you for being a friend. I hope that this year we better understand each other, though it was mostly my fault. F/A.”
The signoffs were equally hilarious.
Love and Preppiness, signed both Tracey and Jennifer, who must have worn polo shirts with their collars up.
Love and Vogueness, from Tammy, obviously an outdoor fashionista.
“I’ll call you after camp and we’ll do something totally radical,” a friend from my school wrote. “Remember that I wuv you to the max!”
Many of these signatures were from people who were only in my life for those few weeks in the summer, but some are from lifelong friends, like the guy who wrote this:
“I’m real glad we’re friends, and I know that we always will be!!! Thanks for being my friend. You always keep me smiling or laughing.”
Back at you, Tyler.
That was my last summer at camp, before we all got too grownup for bunk beds, early morning rehearsals, and waiting in line for showers, and we chose instead to spend our time off school working and trying to find the RADDEST party.
The summer of 1982, I was still belting out songs from the much-loved movie “Fame,” about a group of kids committed to their art, and channeling Irene Cara:
“Sometimes I wonder, where I’ve been, who I am, do I fit in?”
For at least those three weeks, I fit in.
That’s pretty neat.