Red Ashby. Est. 2010. Yellow Spring. WV

It’s that time of year when people who I became friends with on Facebook a year ago start to post pictures of planes and of my second home. It’s the end of May/beginning of June and that means only one thing in my world. Camp is starting.
Camp I think I can safely say has probably had the single biggest impact on me and my life. Five summers, 15 months and somewhere in the region of 60 Taco Tuesdays have changed me and my life for the better (I can’t know for sure but I’m pretty confident about this).
If you haven’t spent much time with me or I haven’t had the chance to crowbar camp into conversation, let me give you the 411.
I worked for Camp Rim Rock for Girls deep in the West Virginian woods for 5 summers. I was a shy 20 year old girl with bright red hair when I first rolled into the most beautiful place in the world. I was called Megan and I was terrified and excited in equal measure. I was finally breaking out on my own. I never did university so going to camp was my first time living away from my parents. Sure it’s not really living alone but it wasn’t in the family home. I could be anyone I wanted to be. Turns out that person is Red. It took quite a while for her to fully emerge. I’ve always been on the quiet side, happy to listen instead of taking all the attention. But Red was happy to have attention. I became the big kid who was the weird one up on the hill.

camp units
Choctaw Unit through the years

When I arrived at camp I was fairly set on being with the little ones. I liked them better. But thanks to one woman in particular, I ended up in the oldest unit, Choctaw. Up on the hill surrounded by 13, 14 and 15 year olds. This was not the plan. But boy was I wrong about what I wanted. Turns out I bloody love teenagers. They are sassy and moody but it seems they love when the red head brit does weird crazy stuff. I’ll be honest I don’t remember half the stuff I did that summer. All I know is a new side of me got released or even created. I’m not going to say it was a perfect summer. I cried sure and sometimes a lot. Working with people you don’t necessarily like is a skill that needs to be learnt (or at least it did for me). Living with those people as well makes the process a much steeper learning curve than normal. I made some amazing friends that summer. One of whom will always have a special place in my heart and I’m completely certain I would not have made it through the summer without her. My camp sister who was in some ways my big sister and in other ways my little. She’d listen when I cried and annoy me when she wanted to too.
Summer 2 came around quickly. I got turned into a unit head. I was put in charge of a team! Summer 2011 is still my favourite of all my camp summers. It lacked any kind of drama (well not any drama but I cried a lot less) and I was entirely happy. The full force of Red was out. My bathroom talks are the stuff of legend and the shy Megan was long gone. I learnt a lot that summer too. Mainly what my leadership style is. Turns out it’s a lot of being the hardest working member of the team and telling my team how much I love them. I’m pretty laid back as a leader and it worked for me. Choctaw truly became a part of me. It became my hill. The Choctaw girls became my girls. It was my home. So much so I have the exact coordinates of it tattoo’d on my ribs so I can always find my way home. Speaking of the Choctaw girls, it wasn’t just the counsellors who I became close with. Over the years, I would be with multiple campers for multiple sessions and multiple years. They become just as important to my experience as the counsellors, maybe even more important in some cases. I wiil always love seeing how well they are all doing as they head into grown up things like college.
Summer 3, I was unit head again. Choctaw was perfect as always. Some things were hard, I’m sure I cried but generally life was good. New friendships were made and old friendships were reignited. I went on the single best holiday of my life after this summer. 10 of us taking over a cruise and raging it up. A week I will never forget. I also visited Hogsmeade and made more friends on the ocean. One of whom I saw only last year in New York and he stills gives the best hugs ever.

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I’m just holding on for dear life by the way

Summer 4 was more of the same. Struggles and fun. I might seem like I’m skimming over these summers but if I start telling stories, one will lead to another which remind me of another thousand. I mean I looked at a Facebook friendship with one of my favourite campers and was reminded of particularly hilarious moment. Those moments you completely forget about but one quote can bring it all flooding back to you. I’ve been known to sit and look through my notes and cards, just to remember forgotten moments. I don’t always remember which summer each story comes from but they all mean so much to me.
Lets move on to summer 5. So I skipped a summer before number 5 and returned a program director. I was out from the cabins and into the lake house with two amazing housemates. I was in charge of the waterfront and the photographers. It was a great summer and I worked super hard. I love summer 5 a lot. I definitely cried. I am a crier if you don’t already see that. Summer 5 was an odd one though. I was coming in having missed a year. There were counsellors who were returning but I had never met them. There were counsellors who had even heard about me and lets be honest, my greatness. I’m joking of course (a little bit).

through the years

So cut it all down, camp shaped the person I became. It’s the reason I no longer feel any real need to drink when there’s dancing to be done. I don’t need alcohol to help me enjoy dancing like a maniac. It’s all me people. It’s why the true weirdo emerges sometimes. I think it’s also incredibly telling that she usually comes out when I’m incredibly tired and it’s evening. Night meetings were some of favourite things when I was unit head. Discussing the daily going ons and generally being ridiculous in the bathrooms with my unit. The amount of times I was doing some stupid like hiding a life-size cut out of Taylor Lautner in someone’s regular shower. Yeah that happened. Although I think the moment 1 particular camper saw him and dropped her towel as she ran into the bathroom to hug him eclipses any other moments with him. She had underwear on don’t worry. We took Taylor to the pool once but didn’t want to risk him getting wet and disintegrating.
Told you I have a lot of stories. A lot of them involve dressing up. I’ve been a creeper, Annie the orphan, in the Hunger Games, an Olympian, a Teletubby, Chuckie from Rugrats, ginger spice (twice), a baby, Professor McGonagall, a Wilderness Explorer, the Joker (the Heath Ledger version), black swan, a superhero, a lost boy, in a boyband and more that I can’t remember right now. I’m basically a professional costume maker now, especially when you have only a couple of hours to prepare.
Thinking about it now, each year at camp I made some of the closest friends I’ve ever had. I’m not going to name names but they know who they are. Although I am the actual worst at keeping in contact with anyone, I hope they all know that I keep an eye on what they are doing with their lives. Happy for every accomplishment they have and happiness they live.
I don’t really know where this is going now. I’m just rambling as I remember more and more about the amazing times I’ve had at camp. So I’ll stop now. Maybe one day I’ll write up some stories but I think one day I’d rather turn them into a novel or a few.

I hope this didn’t bore you too much. It ended up longer than I thought. But I just love CRR and it will always be a part of me.

Red and her book x

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