Thursday, August 13, 2009

I'm going to sing, sing, sing....

I have been singing and humming to myself all night. What's with this uncharacteristic dose of happiness?

Flashbacks, baby.

Yup. I'm thinking about muggy nights, color wars, arts and crafts, awkward dances, even more awkward first kisses, jelly fish stings, wind surfing, lanyards, volleyball, vespers, gong shows, dining halls, ridiculous skits, cots, sleeping bags, Bible studies, rafting, tents, cabins.

Ah, summer camp. How I loved thee.

Thanks to my exceedingly generous parents, I spent weeks every summer at different camps. Orchestra Camp (yes, I'm a dork.), Field Hockey Camp, Ecology Camp, and the nerdiest of all ... drumroll... International Relations Camp. (We debated NAFTA. Yes. We were rockstars.)

But my favorite by far was the one week every summer I spent at Camp Pecometh. Yes. Church camp. And let me tell you, peeps and peepettes, it was always, unequivocally, without-a-doubt, the Best. Week. Ever.

Pecometh, a Native American sounding name that actually stands for Peninsula Conference Methodists, was 90 minutes from home and a world and a half away.

That place and that pier. Sigh, talk about something, some place, and some time I'll never forget. Learning with windsurf. Learning to sail. Learning to shave. Meeting people from other countries for the first time (I seem the remember the Aussie counselors being seriously hot). Learning what it meant to "go out" with a boy. A few years later, having my first kiss on the camp's pier with a turned-out-to-be-crazy boy named Wayne. My first exposure to Nirvana and daisy dukes.

It was my dream to work there as soon as I turned 16 and was old enough to be a lifeguard. (Counselors were in college.) I dreamed about it: That awesome red Speedo, a gleaming metal whistle, a whole summer of freedom and romance and sun. It wasn't about God then. It was about learning who I was and who I could be, where I fit and where I didn't.

I never became that lifeguard. Instead, I spent the summer of 1996 as an oh-so-responsible high school intern at a local TV station. I processed promos, had a creepy shooter white balance on my ass (note to self, never, EVER wear a white skirt again), hung out on live shoots, organized resume tapes, close captioned segments and replied to viewers who just HAD to have copies of Mr. Food's recipe of the day. The next summer it was another internship at the local newspaper. And then it was about resume-building. I never looked back.

Maybe that's why I've been singing so much tonight.

Nearly two decades after I first stumbled into Camp Pecometh, I'm now an active member of a church that I love. While you'll never find me preaching about faith (Shoes? Yes. Grammar? Oh, hell yes. God? Nope.) I really am so glad and grateful that it's part of my life. It's where you'll find me every Sunday (and most Wednesdays), where you'll find so many of my Chicago friends, and where I devote so much of my out-of-work-energy.

It's because of that involvement that you'll find me at another church camp next month, participating in a young adults retreat. It's not Pecometh. Nothing ever will be. Still, it's a chance to get away from the city and everything that makes you so tired here. It's a chance to hang with people who've become some of my best friends. There will be s'mores and crafts. Bible study. (Unlike Pecometh, there will more than likely be beer. There's probably going to be a 100 percent decrease in making out. For me, anyway.) And if I have my way, there will be singing.

I didn't intend to blog tonight. Instead, I thought I'd search for titles and lyrics for some of the old Pecometh songs as preparation for the retreat gets under way, hoping to survey some other people and creating a songbook with guitar tabs for the event. That prompted a Facebook status asking my friends what their favorite church camp song were. One hour and 22 comments later, it seems like I'd really hit a sweet spot for people. I guess when you're a kid and you're learning who you are and how the universe works, songs and music are a great way to identify, connect with, and discover your faith and your view of the world.

So tonight, I'm humming songs like Humble Thyself, Sanctuary, Seek Ye First, I Will Call Upon You Lord, and that perennial camp number: Pass It On. I'm thinking about Wayne and camp antics. What it looked like to see the sun set over the river. Or the sound of a few hundred kids singing hymns by candlelight in an outdoor chapel.

What a blessing, indeed.

What's your favorite camp memory? Favorite song? Church camp or not, I wanna know!


Ms. H said...

I would LOVE to post my favorite camp song....HOWEVER. I cannot get "I'm gonna sing, sing, sing...I'm gonna shout, shout, shout..."

Ummm....did you get the email I sent you with the password to my blogpost? (I didn't want you to think I left you out, so I thought I'd check.)

Noodles said...

Ms H! I owe you a big ass e-mail! I got your note and your passyword and feel so cool! Good luck getting that song out of your head. It's stuck in mine. The way my thighs get stuck to vinyl on a 90-degree summer day. (gag)

Lace Unraveled said...

Thanks for bringing back great memories of Camp Pecometh. I think the best was always the last night with the pie tins and the candles floating out on the water, so peaceful!! Those were great times.

Noodles said...

Oh my gosh, Ms. Lace ... I could NOT AGREE MORE. That night was magic. Although, I always felt bad for the counselors and staff in the water getting a few dozen jellyfish stings. Poor guys. P.S. Welcome to the blog! Nice to meet ya!

Noodles said...

Or, uh, Lace ... good to see you on the blog since I'm pretty sure we've met. :-)

Currer Bell said...

Sigh. I went to several church camps of a variety of denominations over my childhood, but my favorite was the Methodist camp (even though I grew up Baptist). I loved walking around at night with flashlights, telling stories in the darkness of the cabin, swimming in the lake and making stupid shit my parents still have to this day. I remember trying to shave my legs with just water and learning why that's a terrible idea. I remember bawling and not wanting to leave when my mom came to pick me up at the end of camp, even though my dad was in the hospital with pneumonia. I remember Preston. Sigh. Preston.

esahler said...

The closest I ever got to Pecometh was riding up with my Aunt Judy to pick up my cousins, who had just spent a week there. They both had great stories and memories like yours — I guess all kids do. Reading this brought a tear rolling down my cheek. I'm such a sap, but I do hope someday my two girls get the chance to go. Sniff.