“Are we there yet?” I yelled from the back seat of my best friend Alicia’s mothers grey minivan. My mother sat in front next to Mrs. Martin, while Alicia and I had the whole back seat to ourselves. Well, mostly except for the suitcases and gear we had packed to spend the week at Camp. I already knew the answer to the question I had asked so, it didn’t matter that both women in the front seat ignored me and continued on with their own conversation. The answer was no, but I knew we were getting close, because I could smell it. It smelled like the woods, like damp mulch, like soil and like trees. It smelled like mud puddles and like grass. It smelled like sunshine, laughter and an entire week of freedom. To me it smelled exactly like summer camp.
Nothing in the world was more exciting than arriving at summer camp. Alicia and I could hardly make it through the two hour drive from home due to the anxiousness of what was to come. It was absolutely agonizing to get up that morning and pack everything perfectly, checking and rechecking our lists just to sit in a hot van for two long hours. When we finally did arrive, we immediately ran to the Camp lodge where we would check in and find out which cabin we were assigned to that year. ”Cabin 11 again!” The same one we were in the year before.
We then started on the long walk from the lodge to the cabin villages. We were quickly able to spot cabin 11. The cabins were wooden structures with a single room and no windows with the names we had carved in the wall from our last visit were still there. It had a small front porch and inside there were about 12 bunk beds. A few girls had already claimed their beds and began unpacking. Alicia and I found two top bunks beside each other and threw all of our stuff right on the bed. Unpacking could be done later. We then, ventured outside to meet our counselor. Her name was Noel, she was short and pretty with dark curly hair. I don’t remember all the names of my camp counselors but Noel was one of my favorites throughout the next few years of attending summer camp.
After that, Noel went over all the rules of her cabin pertaining to food, dirty laundry, being courteous of one another, etcetera. We all said our separate good byes to our parents. Some of the girls cried, while most of the girls cheered. After all, a week was an awful long time to not have your mommy within reach or nearby. Of course I was one of those that cried. However, with comforting words, my mom was always the best at making me feel secure again. She reminded me that it was only a week and she was only a phone call away. She hugged and kissed me, gave me a lecture on following the rules before her and Mrs. Martin started back towards the camp lodge.
Summer Camp had officially begun! I could now, not only smell my week of freedom, I could touch it. All week long we would be busy doing many different activities. Some of my favorites were survival training, obstacle courses, wall climbing, mud soccer, swimming and campfires. My favorite thing of all was the five mile hike outside of the main camp that took you on a nature filled journey that taught us about the different plant life and geography native to the area. All of this ended with an overnight stay at a very primitive campsite that lacked the modern day amenities we are accustomed to. Just taking a shower required filling huge water basins that were assembled at the top of wooden outhouses while waiting for the sun to warm them up. The fun that summer camp entailed for me was endless.
The sweet smell of happy childhood memories will linger inside my soul forever. It is really quite astounding to me that something as simple as a common smell could bring fourth such an abundance of joyful memories to a person. Still to this day, whenever I drive towards woodsy areas I am flooded with the most wonderful memories that could possibly exist on this Earth and today I have the privilege to make similar memories with my own family.