Thursday, June 03, 2010

Lasting Impressions 25

Today's Lasting Impression was written by a talented writer, Rachel from MWF Seeking BFF, who is a fairly new addition to my Google Reader. 

If you would like to contribute a Lasting Impressions post, please email me and let me know. I would love to have your story about friendship!

For as long as I can remember, friends have been a central focus of my life. Of course, we all want and need friends. Duh. But I’ve always had a keen interest in books about friends (The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High and, a personal fave in my youth, Among Friends by Caroline B. Cooney), BFF movies (Beaches, obviously, but also The Sweetest Thing and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and TV shows (Friends, Golden Girls, you get the picture). I’ve found comfort in having that close-knit group, or, sometimes, that one soulmate-esque friend who knows me almost too well. Now that I’m devoting much of my time—and an entire blog—to finding that connection in my new hometown of Chicago, I’ve spent plenty of time wondering why. Why have I always had a greater-than-normal fascination with friendship? What is it about sociology, and specifically BFF ties, that gets me all riled up? Where did it all start?

I’ve only one answer: Summer camp.

I spent nine summers at an all-girls camp in Maine. To this day I believe it was one of, if not the most character-defining experiences in my life. From ages 8 to 16, I spent eight weeks surrounded by other girls whose greatest immediate concerns were which flavor would be offered at Cookie Line and if they had last choice at signups that evening (which usually meant getting stuck with kayaking or archery, which 12 years later seem like pretty sweet gigs).

I met Sara during my third summer at camp. We were 10. She was a new camper and lived in the bunk next door. That she had super-cool stationary and adorably puffy cheeks that I couldn’t help but squeeze was enough to endear her to me forever. Because at camp, that’s all it took. It wasn’t about who had the coolest clothes (we wore uniforms) or the nicest hair (thank God for that, as I was a frizzy mess) or the hottest summer boyfriend (I’m a big proponent for single-sex camps). It was about who would cheer the loudest at color war, or sit under the trees with you after dinner. That’s all there was to it.

I used to get teased, lovingly of course, about how much I adored camp. But it always felt like the safest place in my life. Those eight week spent in a little corner of the world in Poland, Maine were, just, simple. And the friendships were real. If you can live with someone for two months—in the middle of the hormonal, melodramatic adolescent years, no less—well, then you can get through anything,

Sara and I spent 7 summers together as campers and returned when we were 18 as counselors. 9 years after that she was one of two bridesmaids in my wedding. This summer, we’re roadtripping back up to Maine to celebrate the camp’s 100-year anniversary. We’ll push our beds together like we used to. We’ll sing camp songs that we somehow still remember (she’s got a knack for lyrics written by earnest 15-year-olds). We’ll eat smores and cookies and burgers from the cookout. We’ll even going kayaking and return to archery range (Sara was an American Archer!). Because that’s the stuff our friendship was built on. Songs and cheers and tears and some fights, maybe, but I can’t even remember those.

And then, if all goes as planned, in another ten(ish) years we’ll meet at Visiting Day and watch our own little campers become blooming BFFs. The cycle will continue.