My Camp Days Were Among My Happiest

Finding_Your_Own_Style

By: Honey Good

We met when we were young teens at Forest Acres a summer camp, located in the small town of Fryeburg, Maine. We happened to be in the same cabin and our beds almost touched.

We were total opposites. She was a loner, an artist and as artists go, off in her own world. She had long naturally curly dark hair and was quite interesting looking. She was not ‘one of the girls.’ I was an extrovert, the Captain of the Tan Team and ‘one of the girls.’ They say opposites attract and I believe that to be very true. We bonded. I loved to watch her sketch. She had a quiet strength; her demeanor very dramatic. She enjoyed my friendship. I enjoyed hers. We spent many happy hours during our daily rest hour talking about our lives. I told her about ‘Kankakee by the Sea.’ She told me about her celebrity mother and her life.

My camp days were my happiest days during my growing up years. From the age of six to seventeen I was a camper! My first camp was Burr Oakes in Wisconsin. I still have my jeweled honor belt with colored jeweled stones from royal blue to crimson red to crystal clear to yellow, pink and green. Each one stood for a sport or a value such as good sportsmanship, camp spirit, etc.. Around each of the big stones were tiny brass balls hammered into the black belt for a camper’s excellence. My belt, still beautiful, is in “my memory drawer!”

My mother wanted to expose me to the East Coast so after three years she took me out of my beloved Burr Oaks and sent me off to camp in Maine! I was distraught at the thought. But as the saying goes, “mother’s know best” proved to be true.

My days at Forest Acres were the best! The camp was beautifully situated in the White Mountains along a lovely flowing small river. I reveled in the camp spirit, and enjoyed every thing about Forest Acres. I made long lasting East Coast friendships with girls so much more sophisticated than the girl from “Kankakee by the Sea! My mature camp friends taught me to bleach my hair with peroxide, tweeze my eyebrows and puff on my first cigarette! I learned my favorite cabin counselor was gay and what gay was all about and a counselor at the brother camp, Indian Acres, four years my senior and a freshman at Princeton fell in love with me! His name was Sid.

My camp days were a passage of my life that I would live all over again given the chance! After the camp season ended Sid kept in touch with letters, phone calls and a visit to meet my parents in “Kankakee by the Sea!” On that visit he asked my parent’s permission to allow me be his date for the big football weekend at Princeton! I was fifteen years old! My mom thought long and hard and told Sid, “If Suzi goes with a girlfriend, I will consider allowing her to fly to Princeton for the weekend.”

Who do you think Sid thought of? My artist girlfriend! He wanted to fix her up with his boyfriend who was also an artist. The celebrity mom and my mom talked. All was decided and confirmed. I was on my way!

I remember giddily telling and asking my mom at the same time, “I am so excited mom. Thank you for allowing me to go to Princeton! I can’t believe this is happening to me… I am experiencing life! Oh! What am I going to wear, mom?”

My mother had wonderful taste telling me at my young age, “Don’t fall for fashion! It is all about style.” She dressed me perfectly for the trip. My hair was shoulder length. My lips had a touch of color. I wore a camel hair coat, low red heels and a wool scarf around my neck in red and camel color. I remember I felt special.

That is until my quiet, artist girlfriend waltzed into the airport with her flowing black hair, her mother’s leopard coat and cloche hat, black sheer hose, high heels in black and her mother’s jewelry! We were the same age but she looked like my mother and I felt like her daughter!

I remember being in shock as I kissed my mom and dad goodbye. That is until my mom winked at me and gave me the heads up sign of approval. I smiled back and felt happy, once again.

The weekend was fabulous for me. Not so for my girlfriend who lost her mother’s jewelry (probably stolen) and ran and snagged “all” her mother’s black sheer hose. She had to fly home in cold weather…bare legged! She looked like a wreck!

Sitting on the plane, on the way back to Chicago, I now felt like her mother! She was mentally depleted. I decided at the ripe age of fifteen she needed my advice! This is what I remember saying: “You don’t have to copy your celebrity mom. You want to have your own style, not your mom's. You create beautiful art. Now create how you want to look."

She started to cry and hugged me. I felt happy.

My parents met us at the airport; took my girlfriend to her gate and as we drove back to “Kankakee by the Sea” I remember thinking as I stared at my parent’s in the front seat, “I am so happy that they are not celebrities!”

Several years later my husband, Shelly, and I flew to camp Forest Acres for the camp’s fiftieth anniversary! I wanted so much to see my old camp where I spent so many happy summers. As I walked onto the campground I immediately saw Sid rushing up to me waving my picture in his hand!!! My picture when I was fifteen years old! Did he still have a crush on me, I wondered! I was overwhelmed, to say the least and very happy to see him. He is a successful attorney in New York.

Are you wondering what happened to my girlfriend? I saw her also! We met by design at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in LA a few years ago. I noticed “her look” as she walked toward me. She was not dressed as a fashion plate. She had style. She had found her authentic self.

My mind flashed back to the two of us sitting side by side on the flight home from Princeton discussing the importance of owning your style. I remembered our long rest hours when we shared our secrets and bonded. I smiled to myself.

Today “she” writes an “advice” column! My girlfriend is Dear Abby’s daughter who pens her mother’s column …in her style!

I “penned” this column for you because we all have fond girlhood memories. Maybe this story will encourage you pick up the phone and reconnect with an old friend or sit down with your children or grandchildren and tell them about yourself and your experiences as a young girl. Every story has a message…a lesson. Everyone loves a story. Share yours!

I hope you have a very lovely Sunday!