February 27, 2008

Old friends are new again

Betsy, Robin, Helen, Andrea, Neil, Fawn, Rich, Michael...Hill, Village, Row, Line, Lazy Day, Good, Good, Yes, Good, and Fine, Fine Super Fine. No, Dear Reader, I haven't lost my mind. I know these names and places and sayings don't mean anything to you and for a long time they meant nothing to me. Actually, that's not true. They've always meant something to me because things that happened in life would trigger memories of them or of the times we spent together. Certain smells would evoke memories of meals together or songs would trigger memories of dances and air guitar. FreeBird always reminds me of air guitar. Always. When I see a clock and it reads 6:11, the first thing I think of is "Hey, Pinemere, what time is it?". These are things from my past that have recently become part of my present.

These people and places and sayings are from my days at Pinemere Camp. I loved Pinemere so much I used to dream about going there in the winter. I promise you, Dear Reader, that when I woke up in my own bed in my own room intead of my bunk at Pinemere, I was heartbroken. Pinemere is one of those places that lets a kid be a kid. You play and learn and swim in a lake (Thank G-d for the pool!) and write letters to your family, and get a candy bar from canteen. Let me tell you, there was nothing in the world better than candy from canteen. I'd stay at Pinemere for 4 weeks in the summer and to this day, it's been the fastest 4 weeks of my life. I think of Pinemere often and always wondered what become of the people and place I cared for. And now I know.

I got an email a few weeks ago and the first line said, "Is this BG?"...now one thing you have to know, Dear Reader, is that no one except my family and old friends call me this anymore. I am, as you know, Howard. Grown up, going gray, laugh lined Howard. Anyway...I read the email several times to make sure it wasn't spam and then realized it was inviting me back...back to Pinemere. There is a social network that's been created for us campers, both old and new. For the first two or three days I did nothing but surf the site looking for people, talking to people, dusting off memories, and reliving old times. I dug out my box of pictures and found my camp photos from when I was 11 in 1976 to when I was 14 in 1980. I found the old postcards I used to write...1976, "Camp is fun. I am fine. I got a rubber ball from canteen. Love, BG". 1980, "It is hot as hell here. I think I am going to melt. Love, BG". I've spent hours on the phone with old friends reliving old memories, but also making new ones. I cannot express to you, Dear Reader, how much fun this is...and how much I've missed Pinemere.

My tenure at Pinemere ended badly. I quit being a counselor 2 weeks before the end of the 1984 season. I was 18, about to move 1200+ miles to a state where I knew no one, and hating what I was doing. I honestly regret it to this day. Well, maybe now I can start some new memories to overwrite this bad one. If things go according to plan, I'm going to try and make it to camp this summer for a visit. I know it's changed and there are more programs and more things to do, but for me, Pinemere will be just like I remembered it. Just like I dreamed about.

Thanks, Robin, for the invite.