There are two words guaranteed to bring back memories of our youth and those carefree and seemingly endless days in July and August: summer camp.
For me, that first summer camp was Camp Ingersoll on the banks and forests along Portland's Jobs Pond, a small glacial kettlehole just down a country lane from a busy Route 66. And those experiences in the natural world and the cool waters helped shape who I am today.
Camp Ingersoll is turning 50 this summer and there are all sorts of celebrations scheduled. The camp is looking for personal memories and photos from our time there. Check them out on Facebook. I tried to find the group shot of me and my fellow campers that I've saved all these years. Really, I did. And somewhere in some box, I did save the God's Eye craft I made from popsicle sticks and yarn in the arts and crafts cabin.
Ingersoll was where I first learned how to swim as a pollywog and then a minnow before finally becoming a shark or piranha. I remember having punch-and-cookie time and drinking what was actually the juice of assorted squeezed insects - or so I was told by my fellow campers. Whatever it was it cooled those hot summer days.
I remember going on scavenger hunts for candy and getting lost in the woods – which still happens despite being nearly as old as the camp. Actually, that may have been when my great exploring days began. I remember fishing for sunnies off the sides of the docks and doing our two laps as the lifeguard walked back and forth. Our reward? Permission to swim out to the raft where we spent our afternoons plunging into the cold depths in search of the mucky bottom of the pond or sneaking underneath to an air pocket and scaring our fellow campers above us.
After my day camp years, my family would load the station wagon with beach chairs and towels and a picnic lunch. In those days, there was a camp program and family swim area. As I grew older, I would look over at the campers and smile recalling a simpler time.
Much of the camp has changed, but a lot of it remains the same. For this summer camper of long ago, it is a place where time has stood still in my memories. And 50 years later, the camp will entertain another group of children looking for a slice of summer fun and their place in this world.