October 22, 2019

Happy Camper

I might have been a happy camper
at a place with heated water and electric lights,
where the mess hall didn’t smell like vomit
and the rafters weren’t a home for bats
that loop-de-looped above the cots at night.

I might have welcomed Bangor’s beauty more
with care packages of Seventeen and cake,
if mosquitos hadn’t loved my armpits
and I wasn’t the first girl in Cabin Twelve
to get her period. 

I might have sung more joyfully
if I could harmonize in tune,
if the lake hadn’t turned my hair into fusilli
and the cute boy with the dimples liked me
instead of Jason with the vitamin breath.

I might have had more fun at the cookout
and the overnight on Newton Hill
if I hadn’t scared a skunk and had to wash
three times in freezing snow melt
before counselors let me back onboard the bus.

I might have been a happier camper
if I hadn’t capsized two canoes
and my sister wasn’t back home eating Fudgsicles
and I’d left the camp with six new best friend pen-pals
instead of three unfinished lanyards and a pounded metal ashtray.

Paula Rudnick is a former television writer and producer who has spent the past 30 years as a volunteer for nonprofit organizations.