Growing up, every summer we went to camp. Except the summers we lived in Wyoming, which I was too small to remember well.
I remember the boat ride- dark, cramped, tucked in a life jacket and shoved on someone's lap, on a long ride, after hours and hours and forever in the car. It was more scenery I could only peer at over the edges from my seat, and more anxiety about where do we all fit, get it all packed, don't make noise, stay where we put you, and for gods sake don't fall in the lake.
Then we arrive. The first year, I slept on a couch. The first year I remember anyway. There are pictures of me being bathed in a sink years later I got to wash my hair in, leaning over backwards with my sister pumping the water. This was the Hodgson, a name I later learned was from the manufacturer. There was a seam the length of the cabin, and that was because it was a very early modular home. I later learned of its trip across the lake on the ice, and it being the second story of a boathouse in our little bay, with a balcony all around. There are french doors all around the front and sides that are boarded up and sealed, which ruin its picturesque quality that it must have had as a second story to a boathouse. Mrs. Summer lived there when it was in the bay and painted the view. She left her paintings behind. There was a painting of her son in the hall of the Main Camp, done in oil. I thought he was handsome, almost 20. He died not long after his painting was done- from a fish eating competition, of all things, when a bone got stuck in his throat. I don't know who paid to move the Hodgson from on top of the boathouse to its present location. But I am sure after he died, Mrs. Summer didn't want to paint any more. The oil heater made scary noises in the night, and my little brother slept soundly in his crib in the corner.
My sister got to sleep in the Big House- the Main Camp- with Grandpa Burt and Meme. She was told to be quiet, and to stay in her room until they came to get her in the morning. The next year, and every year after, I also got to sleep over there. We had connecting doors, but never used them. I had one window outside and another window to the hall, across from the bathroom. The other non-master bedroom that my brother got had an actual door to the outside, but this was verboten to use- it was covered with deer hide on the outside and smelled. But I could hear them putter in the living room, central to all of the bedrooms and the hall, lighting the wood stove for warmth. We were invited to dress in the living room where it was warm, after Grandpa Burt was safely in the kitchen having his shave. Then we would all have breakfast to the smell of woodsmoke and Brylcream. And we were given two terribly dry gingersnap cookies to eat for dessert for breakfast. Even now, I salivate thinking of those cookies, even though they were terrible. I want to wash them down with prune juice like Burt. In the evening, the four adults would sit at the card table and play spades, Meme sticking her cards in the edge of the table to help her hold the cards. My sister, my brother and I would play cards too on the floor- go fish, then crazy 8s, then kings in a corner, and finally Pitch. Now, we draw cards for the priviledge. I play with Da when I can, and we kick ass.
The Dining room was used for special occasions. It was its own cabin at the other end of the breezeway. It smelled of moth balls, but many things did up there when the windows weren't open and the wind blowing through. The outside was still peeled bark nailed in place. The shelves had more birch bark peeled paneling. Above the shelves were the tracings of fish caught, the name, the date. Most of the states stopped in 1929, the earliest about 1911. Sunfish, and crappies, perch, and bass. There are a few new fish, from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and I am sure when Riley realizes what the fish are, he'll want his fish up there too. When I was young, it was only used as a dining room when we could not fit in the Main Camp. The shelves held obscure decanters and fancy china. The bench seats held other things, mostly that I could not name. Now, it's been emptied. Legos and K'nexx cover the shelves. Riley uses it as a play house.
The other building off the breezeway was rarely spoken of or noticed. This is now my haven. The winter cabin is what we call it now. Once upon a time, it was the camp kitchen, where the cook had a bed in the back with a watercloset (literally a closet with a toilet in it and that's all that fits!), and a kitchen with a table under the large window. I saw it only a couple of times in my youth, stinking something awful like the Gods of Latex died therein, so crowded it made my spare room look sparse, with all of the waders invented dangling from the ceiling beams, so it looked like Jimmy Hoffa and friends were butchered in there. This was completely remodeled about 5 years ago, so it is a warm and light yellow kitchen with a small fridge and the only sink without a pump. The bed is large and leveled, but the ceiling slopes so much you still have to watch your head. There's a door to the outside in the bedroom too, which is conveniently where our bedroom door is. The first night we slept there, Jazz stumbled outside to find a place to pee instead of using the watercloset. He had forgotten where he was. Since then, we use a night light in the watercloset. But it's really nice to let the dog out in the morning. It's almost like living in a fishbowl with the windows though. I like it because I get to cook for myself.
But my favorite bedroom was the Attic of the Main Camp. The exterior stairs added charm. Stepping over the roof support beams to get to the bedroom in the back was fun. The bats and mice added spice. And I would burn a candle stump to read by, much to the disproval of my parents. I loved it best sleeping under a tin roof in the rain, listening to the waves crash on the floor, and the sudden hush of a mosquito with the flutter of a bat's wings. This was Romantic.
But the point itself was my special place. Just sit on the rock and watch the lake. I would dance around the fireplace and flagpole and make up silly songs. I never knew or cared that anyone could listen or see me. I still love sitting there in the evening, watching the mountains across the lake give birth to the moon- watching every star there ever was appear above me. Just breathing in the stillness and the life was comfort to the soul.
I learned later how the first building was the tool shed, which was used as a bunk house for builders at Bluff Point. Later, one of the lawyers for J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt, etc., bought our camp. He built the Main Camp and added to it, brought the clawfooted tub for the only bathroom in the Main Camp, the Hodgson House onto its boathouse perch. Tried in his way to have a small elegant version of what was happening on Bluff Point, and Long Point, and North Point, and further Great Camps like Sagamore and Kildeer, and Uncas. We had bark on the outside of the Main Camp and Dining Room. Later, Grandpa Burt used asphalt shingles that looked vaguely like wood. Later still, Dad and Mom put up cedar shingling. But we still have the same panelling in the Living Room of the Main Camp that they have in the Wigwam at Sagamore. Mom used to complain it's too dark. She likes it fine now.
No matter what is to come for Camp, it's still there in my heart, and it will stay there.