Summers have some sort of majesty about them. Some of my greatest micro-memories are from summers, like running through the sprinkler as a kid. My mom left the sprinkler on the concrete drive so I wouldn’t get muddy, but then I stubbed my toes and picked all my swimsuits from pretending to sunbathe under the shade of a huge wateroak. When I was older, I remember watering the garden, sloshing barefoot through orange clay mud and feeling fuzzy squash and prickly cucumbers.
This majestic side of a southern summer helps atone for the macro-memories of summer all together being pivotal and sometimes painful marks in my life’s timeline. The summer of 2008 was one of the most influential seasons of my entire life. My occupation: Camp Counselor. My mission: survival. The only explanation I have as to how a poet, thinker, organizer, reserved, type-A woman landed in the middle of a field of screaming nine-year-olds fighting over a little red flag is that God himself invented irony and gave it to me as a gift. I spent approximately seven weeks french braiding a dozen little girls’ hair, taking cold showers, and eating chicken nuggets. Each day, I would walk to the main office and check my mail. The little campers would follow me, almost as anxious as I was, hoping my “special person” had written another letter.
That special guy worked at a camp nearby. He sent me stuffed animals and other memorabilia from his camp store and letters full of Scripture and encouraging words. We’d been friends for over a year, but our friendship was beginning to sparkle gold all over, as if it’d filtered down from Heaven. Almost every weekend, he met me in a small town between our two camps just to sit on top of a mountain and be quiet in the same space after such crazy weeks. I could write a whole book about those times together, and those letters when we were apart.
As the summer ended, we both left camp early and traveled. I spent 10 days in Kenya while he was in Peru. I could write a book about Kenya, too. Mostly it was dirty and heartbreaking and beautiful the way it was. The trips didn’t overlap much, so we were apart for 19 days. Those were the healthiest and yet most excrutiating days I can remember. With no way to communicate, our relationship somehow grew the roots it had been needing. When we were both back on American soil, he told me he wanted to date me with the intentions of marrying me, then he became the first man to ever kiss me.
The King of Irony can pull such dazzling things out of sticky summer camps, Kenyan matope, Peruvian rivers, and southern, orange clay.