I knew I would have to leave eventually. Perhaps it didn’t seem so daunting, because I’d left seven times before. But leaving as a camper is different. Two weeks is nothing compared to ten. Still, I gathered my confidence that it wouldn’t be an issue, and buried the inevitable fact of departure deep within the filing cabinets of my brain. I had such a long time, after all. I almost imagined it as a hill to climb, a daunting task, though one I welcomed. As time passed, I barely noticed. I counted the time with the sessions, checking things off as each set of campers left us, imagining that the time was infinite. It felt infinite. It wasn’t.
Suddenly, that time is gone. I’ve left you and I’m heartbroken. There are echoes, though, shades and shadows of you, floating through my mind. Sometimes I’m sitting in the fem staff room, surrounded by morning chaos. Other times, I’m by the stoop, laughing as we tell each other awful jokes and trade back massages. I’m at Table Rock, helping another counselor to pull another one of us into the water, campers laughing and squealing around us. I’m watching my teaching partner gently teach our class how to identify salamanders. I’m drinking chocolate milk and eating bread with my favorite people. I’m T-posing, or being T-posed on, laughter surrounding me. I’m teaching kids to hold a snake, surrounded by the sounds of excitement, in the same place I learned.
Sometimes, it’s not so solid. The shadows are brief flashes of faces and voices. Soft red hair and tears. Big goofy grins and wild curly hair. Sharp humor and kind eyes. A sharp “oo!” Tiny people, but whole people nonetheless. There was something like 300 or so of them, and they all float through my mind, keeping me close to you.
The shapes of buildings seem to surround me too, even though I cease to stand within them. I find myself in the lab, as a camper and a counselor, the space painfully familiar. Other times, I’m lying in my bed in the Staff House, campers sleep-talking. Other times, the room is just filled with light snoring. Sometimes silence. The kitchen and the L.S. materialize, too, and when I eat, I can almost hear the laughter around me. I can hear echoes of silly things we told campers, see my friends eating soup with their bare hands, inhaling olives, or eating ice cream with a fork.
Around all these memories lurks information. I find myself thinking of species of salamanders or reviewing turtle nesting habits. I am facts, hordes of information, but I have no kids to teach.
As I try to go forward, I am painfully aware of the gaping hole in my chest, that my heart is not with me but in pieces. It’s in Vesuvius, Virginia, but also Fredericksburg, Richmond, Williamsburg, and Blacksburg. There are pieces in Charlottesville and Lexington, some scattered in Harrisonburg and Silver Spring, Maryland. A few in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, some in Pennsylvania and New York. Some might even find their way to England soon. Despite all these pieces, things are as they should be. The pieces of my heart go with my people, stay at my home.
Written August, 2019