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A Teen at Last!
A few weeks ago Mom saw a notice about an American Camping Association Fair at the community center. You know Mom, has to have all the facts, so she said, "we could get information about all the different camps, and talk to the camp directors." This is going to be way different from visiting my grandparents in the country which we do every summer. Mom and Dad had promised me last summer, after I went to day camp, that this summer I could go to a sleep away camp. Lucky 13.
I'm going to Camp Hideaway. I chose it after Mom and I met Charlie and his wife, Miss Jenny, who are the camp directors. They showed us a video of the camp and I got to see all the activities that I want to take like theater and dance.
If I can't sing or dance every single day, I think I shall die.
I remember Miss Jenny said , "I'll put you in 'Hill 1' with the youngest girls in the Senior girls division. Sally, the dance teacher, will be your cabin counselor." How cool is that!
I nudged Mom, "Did you hear what she said? The dance teacher will also be my cabin counselor. I can't wait."
I have spent the last week looking over and over again at the brochure Miss Jenny gave me, and a newspaper from camp, called Camp Hideaway Times. I can see myself now the star of the show. You know, I hear that many Broadway stars say it was their summer camp experiences that started their careers.
But, what I'm really excited about is that they have a dance for the senior campers. So, when Mom and I were out shopping, I just had to get a new skirt for the dance. I bought the bright colored flower skirt from Banana Republic and when I modeled my skirt at home Dad said, "May I have this dance?" He took my hand and spun me around and around until my skirt stood out straight. Who knew he was such as good dancer? I hope some of the guys at camp will ask me to dance.
I took special care to fold my new white blouse and skirt that I bought to wear to the dance. Mom's idea to tie a red ribbon around my black curly hair to match the red poppies on the swirly skirt is a cool idea. I grabbed a ribbon from my top drawer.
We have to wear white jeans and shorts and the official red and white camp shirts when we're out of camp or in competition. Thank goodness the UPS guy came yesterday. I threw in some of my favorite old jeans and t-shirts that I can't part with, including my Tee from the summer concert that looks so good on me.
I cannot wait to go to camp tomorrow, and hugging Teddy tonight makes it seem so real. Guess he'll have to take care of my room when I'm gone.
Morning came soo early! I felt like I had just gone to sleep when Mom knocked on the door and said, "Jackie, it's time to wake up. Come and eat so we can leave by 8."
Hot cinnamon rolls for breakfast is just the best! I ate quickly so I could finish packing my small backpack. My duffle bag was so heavy I had to drag it to the front door so Dad could put it in the car. Even if we had to be in the car for 7 hours, I am glad we're driving and not flying. I'd had to worry about the weight of my bags, cause, they'd have cost a fortune and how would I carry them out of the airport?
Dad was busy packing the car like he always does – precision detail. I would have just thrown everything in and slammed the trunk shut. This is my big day who wants precise!
It was about a nano-second later when I lost it. All of a sudden I see that Dad is trying to fit my duffle bag and three suitcases into the car. Where are they going? Are they taking a trip without me? And, why have they kept this a secret from me?
I guess I really was thinking about what if I get sick or break a leg or arm at camp, how would the camp find them? What if I really needed them? I still don't get why Mom thought this was such a cool surprise, but all she said was "I bet you can guess if you think real hard." I just didn't find this very funny. I really need to know where they're going and I wish they would stop teasing me. Besides, this is supposed to be my big day!
It was like one minute I am on cloud nine and the next I am in a tornado with Dad and Mom yelling that we need to leave right now; my younger sister's acting stranger than usual; and this sinking feeling that if I don't take one more look at my room I won't be able to ever breath again. I fly to my room and there is Teddy sitting at the head of the bed, right where I left him to watch on things. That's when I started to cry, and grabbed him up. "Teddy you're coming with me, I can't leave you at home all by yourself. I didn't have a clue that Mom, Dad and Wendy were leaving, too."
With Teddy under my arm, I closed the door and hurried to the car. Wendy snickered and pretended to hug something when Teddy and I climbed in the back seat. I just held Teddy even tighter hoping that some how my heart would stop thumping so loudly.
And, if all that wasn't enough to put a big bruise on my day, Mom starts in before we even get off our street about what did I forget, and whether I remembered to get the list of people to write to. What does she think that we are back in the times of the Pony Express? My favorite, "If you want to get mail, you have to write to people." Sometimes my Mom can be so weird.
When I told my best friend, Janie, that she was going to have to write to me everyday at Camp, I thought she was going to freak out. "Why should I write you," Janie hollered, "I'll just text you." When I told her that we couldn't bring our cell phones, text, or even make phone calls, she shook her head. "It was so dumb of you to plan a whole summer at camp when you could be hanging out with me at the mall. Tell your Mom you've change your mind."
Finally, we are on the interstate headed north, and everyone in the car settles in. Mom starts to play the new Taylor Swift cd and before the second track starts, she and Wendy are singing along like they are auditioning for American Idol. Dad has his "eyes on the road" look. And, I start playing the morning events over and over in my head, feeling really sorry for myself. "Where are they going on their vacation without me?" "Why is it such a secret?
Teddy may just be my only true friend. After about 4 hours, which felt like a whole semester of gym at school, Dad announces that he wants to stop, and all eyes in the car should start looking for a nice restaurant. Of course, he wants to stop and drag this thing out. "Can't we get food at a drive-in?" I didn't want to spend hours in a restaurant, my eyes are red from crying and well, I'm clinging to Teddy and what 13 year old wants to walk into a restaurant holding their teddy bear?
We found a small restaurant, called Down Maine, and the waitress had a funny accent but she was friendly. She's staring at me as she passes out the menus.
Oh gee, what's she going to say?
"Looks like you're on your way to Camp Hideaway! I've never been there but I know you'll have fun. We've got lots of good camps up here in Maine."
I figured smiling back would chill everyone out, and after a couple of bites of my burger and tons of French fries, the smile wasn't that hard to do.
Finally, and I mean finally, Dad puts the GPS system on and we are on the back roads of Maine. Dad navigates all the turns then suddenly ahead of us is the entrance and the Camp Hideway sign. I still looked a mess from crying all morning, but at this point I don't care.
Charlie's right there at the entrance, ready to greet us. He is a large man with a beard and he's wearing a cowboy hat. Mom, I think, is finally getting that maybe I am not myself. She whispers to me that if I have a problem I should go and see Miss Jenny in her cottage or the office and she was sure she would help me.
While Charlie's chatting it up with Mom and Dad, and who knows where Wendy has run off to, a young guy is taking my bags out of the car and shouting "Welcome to Camp Hideaway."
Great. He is trying to tell me that he is a CIT. What's a CIT? Already I am confused. As it turns out a CIT is a counselor in training and they help the real counselors with stuff. Before I know it, I'm following another CIT to my cabin. Her name's Pam, and she is talking very fast like she hadn't talked to any one in a thousand days. "I'm helping Sally with your cabin this summer." I suddenly realized she's giving me the tour of the camp,.
"The Grove!" she announces, "the senior boys live here, and this is their basketball court. The Health Center is on the path ahead. If you go right, you'll come to the Assembly Circle." I stood still and looked around trying to figure out a way to run back to the car, I can't stay here.
About a hundred yards ahead, we made a quick left turn and Pam screamed, "The Hill! Your home for the summer." It did look just like the pictures, but when I started up the steps to my cabin, my legs suddenly felt like they were going to buckle and I knew I was seconds from tears streaming down my face. I ran into the cabin as fast as I could go. My cot was the last one. Everything was happening way to fast, I needed time to think.
Mom, Dad and Wendy finally found their way to the cabin, and were waiting for me to come out to say goodbye. I quickly looked around, trying to find something to hold on to, and that's when I spotted the bunk next to mine. Laying right out in the open, was another stuffed animal, like Teddy. The sign said it was Hannah's bed, and she had written her cute little monkey's name right under her name. "Teddy, meet Molly Monkey," I whispered, as I took a deep breath. Guess I need to give this a chance. I added Teddy's name to my bunk sign, and marched back out to the porch.
It's been the longest day in my life. Before I really could think everything through like should I just tell Mom and Dad this was a big mistake and I thought I would just go ahead and go wherever they were going on vacation, they were waving goodbye. Waving goodbye as if I was being dropped off at the Mall with Janie, and the last thing I remember is Mom telling me to have a wonderful summer and Dad looking down at his watch his universal signal to go – snap, snap. Not even a kiss goodbye. Just a wave, okay they did send air kisses to me, and Wendy did sneak in a hug.
A Walk around Camp
I had to break this day up in my journal. I guess maybe there are days like this when so much happens, you can't write it all down at once. The longest day of my life, probably gets a couple of extra pages. Sally, my cabin counselor, was certainly beautiful and looked very much like a professional dancer. She did seem to be friendly enough, not like a teacher at school, but more like someone's older sister.
I think I must have been staring cause Sally immediately motioned for me to meet a girl that was also standing at the foot of the cabin steps. She had light brown hair tied into a ponytail, and a huge smile that just seemed to say everything is going to be okay. "Meet Hannah." Hannah suddenly was swooping all over me, and in what was a swirl or twirl and a handshake and a tingling giggle, Hannah is telling me all about her trip to camp and how she met up with Ainslee and somebody named Ginger.
Now, I kind of wish I had flown up to camp instead of taking the long 7 hour trip in the car. These girls had flown for their first time – something I still haven't done. But, I guess they couldn't drive from London, England to Maine. Well maybe I didn't fly to get here, but I'm meeting my first international friends. Like Harry Potter, Princess Di, and that cute Prince Harry. For the first time today, I'm beginning to feel like that hundred pound guerilla sitting on my chest is starting to get up.
The English girls, it turns out are school friends. Ginger said. "It was 10 am. when we left the Heathrow Airport. We watched the new Twilight movie and some National Geography special about whales. The food was awful and then the flight attendant started passing out those awful visa papers."
Ainslee said, "Thank goodness my Mom told us how to fill them out. I barely had my seatbelt buckled before we felt the tires touch the runway and the attendant saying that we're right on time, and you can set your watches at10 am, We had just lost six hours of your lives."
I really cannot imagine what it must feel like to leave home, fly hours and hours, and walk off a plane not knowing anybody. It was hard enough just leaving home. These girls are so ... brave. Ginger had been looking for something in her backpack as Ainslee was talking. She finally pulled out a piece of paper that had been folded in quarters and looked a little worse for wear. Ginger's voice sounded a little high pitched when she started shaking out the sign that said "Camp Hideaway" with each letter a different color and many flower drawings adorning each letter.
"We made this sign before we left home. That's how Hannah found us at the airport."
Hannah said, "My parents were flying out west for their vacation so they said I could catch the Camp van at the airport. We were looking for the Hideaway Counselor when we saw Ginger's sign, then we all looked for the Counselor. I felt important, cause some of the kids thought I was from England. Lot of them didn't even know where Cape Cod is."
Hannah was laughing with Ginger and Ainslee about the bus ride up from the airport and all the camp songs that the counselors were trying to sing. I wanted to laugh to but suddenly all of the day's events were catching up. I had thought that when I got to camp everyone would be new to each other, but Ginger and Ainslee are long time friends, and two other girls I just met from my cabin, Jo and Sam, have been camp friends for 3 years. They had come up from New York on a charter bus that stopped to pick up returning campers, and some new kids.
Maybe I should have tried to get Janie to come with me. At least then I would have had one friend. Too, late now for that. But, one thing I can say is that there is so much going on, you barely have time to think. Maybe I was going nuts, cause as I looked up I saw two girls that almost looked alike joining us on the porch steps.
"Hi, I'm Carolyn, and this is my twin sister, Caren," says a girl in the loudest Texas accent I think I may have ever heard. It turns out that the twins had been to camp last year, and liked it so much they were back for more. Carolyn was the artist of the two, and seemed pretty dramatic with her long curly hair and makeup. It wouldn't be too hard to tell them apart, because Caren had cut her curls off and was already high fiving Jo and Sam. What is it with jocks, anyway? The same back home, when you get the soccer girls and softball team together. Caren's into tennis, she wants to beat her dad in a match when she gets home.
I guess the cabin girls could tell I was feeling lonely, cause minutes after Mom, Dad, and Wendy left, Hannah scooted over to where I was sitting and gave me a big hug. "What happened? Why have you been crying?"
I wanted to play it cool, like the Brits and the Texans, but I guess I am just not that cool. Hannah's hug smelled of vanilla and I just knew that we were going to be best friends, no matter what. I told her all about my morning and finding out that my family had gone off on vacation, not telling me where they were going and making me feel like an orphan. I just kept getting this awful feeling that if something bad happened to me, the camp wouldn't be able to find them.
Thank goodness Hannah could feel what I was saying. I would have just died there on the porch without a friend. She didn't get to say anything, when the sound of a bell started ringing, and everyone jumped up. I had almost forgotten that Sally was even there, when she shouted that it was "time for supper."
I jumped up and ran back into the cabin, I wanted to make sure that Teddy was alright and I grabbed my backpack and put Teddy down in it.. I know it sounds dumb, but I needed him close before I walked into yet another new scene. I just think maybe my imaginary daydreaming of spending a summer filled with fun, singing and dancing, and maybe even a little romance was just – dumb daydreaming. Here I am miles from home with no friends no family, only a stuffed bear to keep me safe.
Excerpted from Lucky 13 by NANCY ARMSTRONG, Stephen Adams. Copyright © 2013 Nancy Armstrong. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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