If I didn’t love home so much I’d think that I have some nomad in my blood. I’m constantly moving and I can’t seem to find a place to settle down. Since I graduated high school I’ve attended 3 colleges, had a half a dozen jobs, lived in a handful of states and packed up my belongings in to boxes more times then I can count.  It’s weird and it’s strange but I guess I’m just bad at staying still.

Summer camp is in my blood in a way that I can never really describe. It’s where I’m happiest. The most fulfilled. Stressed, of course, and working hard, but being the version of me that I like the best. The version of me that gets to love and care for everyone and sing dumb songs and wear weird costumes and fix problems with band-aids and ice-packs and time spent just sitting and listening.

This year I worked at my third camp in three years. It’s been interesting to see the differences. In the camps themselves, of course, but also in the people that make up these places that I call home for a couple of months at a time.

And in the ice cream.

Let me get weird for a minute here.

The first camp I ever worked at was the camp that I grew up at. It’s tucked up in the Poconos and was my escape for more then a decade. A great place full of great people, that was—for a long time—exactly what I needed. Staff was allowed to leave camp a couple nights a week to enjoy what there was of a town in the area. We’d all pile in to cars, squished into backseats much too cramped with people who were much too tired and drive down the winding tree- lined roads listening to music with curse words that we would never let our campers hear. There wasn’t much to do honestly. There was a Walmart and a Dunkin Dounuts and a Wawa. So we’d go to Wawa and get milkshakes and sit on the curb and drink them and make the kind of jokes you only make when you are trying very hard to not admit that you are sleep deprived.  When I think of those milkshakes I think about that camp and those nights and how something so simple and silly could mean so much. 

My first summer away from the camp I grew up at was spent somewhere that felt different and familiar in equal and confusing measures. I was happy. Really happy. I felt like I was doing good work and making good friends and learning things I didn’t even know that I needed to learn. It was strange and special. I liked it. There was an ice cream place about 20 minutes away that sat on a cliff overlooking hills that went on for what seemed like forever. If you went at sunset you could watch the colors change in the sky between every pastel shade you could image and several more you’d never even think to think of. One time on the drive there my friends and I had to pull over to the side of the road because we were laughing too hard to drive safely. The place looked a little bit like a barn and the phrase “LOCAL= GOOD” was painted in all caps in letters taller then me on the outer wall. They had flavors with punny names and the people who worked there would only roll their eyes a little when a dozen of us came in at a time. When I think of those ice cream cones I think about changes. I’m a wuss, and starting new and starting over is scary. But starting over can lead to laughing until your stomach hurts and great ice cream gets eaten somewhere beautiful. 

This summer I was somewhere different again. A small camp, where I got a unit of my own to love and to nurture and to plan weird activities for. Four bunks of kids and staff who I got to guide and grow with. An entire camp full of faces that I didn’t recognize. Songs I didn’t know at all, and songs I did know, just sung to slightly different tunes. Traditions I didn’t understand but grew to love. A place where I worked really, really, really hard, but didn’t regret any of that effort. On the extremely rare evenings where the camp world was calm enough that I felt comfortable leaving camp for a little bit, my friend and I would round up a car full of people and head downtown to this ice cream shop where just looking at the menu made me feel overwhelmed. We’d order cones as big as our faces and sit outside and barely eat half of them under the glow of streetlamps as we listened to the sounds of shop doors swinging open and shut and people shuffling their feet down the sidewalks. It was always dark when we got there, and darker yet when we rounded up our friends when it was time to leave. When I think of that shop and those ice cream cones I think of a summer spent doing things that I felt mattered and knowing (or learning) how to step back sometimes and breathe a little bit. To enjoy things like weird flavored ice cream and cool summer nights.

I’m sitting on my bed at home now with mountains of curls piled on my head, in a look that the word “haphazard” had to have been invented for. I’ve got a mix cd on that a friend made me, full of wistful songs that sometimes- if I’m the right mix of tired and nostalgic- make me cry. I should be doing homework, but instead I’m writing about ice cream. About ice cream and summer and about how each place I go teaches me a little bit more about who I am. 

I’m eating a fudgsicle. 

It’s delicious.

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