Ten weeks now till BODY OF WATER.
Let me tell you about the first week in the campground.
It was only an adventure, only another chapter in our fictional lives. We were raised to believe we were characters in books, taught that adversity was fodder for plot, that conflict kept the pages turning. Most chapters had a happy ending. My parents were still the authors and we kids were in charge of the dialogue and a few of the illustrations. We didn’t have to worry much. My parents would find a way to wrap up this chapter neatly.
That summer must have been so hard for them. There are days I can’t write characters through hardship and my parents had to write three real-life girls through it. But if it was hard, they never let on. If they were scared, they never let on. We were on a camping trip, which we’d never been on before. Tents and campground passes were a luxury we could only afford if we weren’t frittering our money away on silly things like rent. This was a treat, this camping trip. This was a once-in-a-lifetime plot twist.
The first week, everything was new and we couldn’t stop giggling. We walked barefoot on hot pavement. We held our breaths past the big blue dumpsters you could smell for half a city block. We were careful of glass. We swam on the campground side of the lake, not the beach side, just to prove we weren’t afraid of the sucking mud and the hidden marine life. We had splash fights. We ate from the vending machines. We sat on the warm dryers in the laundry room come evening and we watched other campers bed down in their little family groups around their campfires and we scoffed at the ones who brought RVs and televisions. After the first few nights, we felt like old pros compared to the people checking in.
And never mind the people checking out. We didn’t have to worry about that.
They made us switch campsites every two weeks. It was a rule presumably put in place to prevent people like us from living in the campground long term. They had to know. The caretakers of the place, they had to notice that we never left. They had to notice that after the first couple of site changes, we stopped taking the tents down and simply transported them fully-assembled, one at a time on the back of the truck. I remember sitting on the edge of the bed of our brown Nissan, clutching the roll bar with one arm and my tent with the other. We moved from Site One to Site Thirty. Site … 42, perhaps? And 14. I can’t remember them all. And the caretakers of the place, they had to see. But they never said a word, only smiled at us and went on their way.
I wish I knew where those people are now. I would send them copies of BODY OF WATER. And something chocolate. Would S'mores be too much?
I’m supposed to be talking about the first week in the campground, but it’s hard to talk about a single week when the whole summer feels like one sunny blur. I know that the first week, we were still fairly clean and crisp from the luxury of living indoors. We did not miss living indoors. We did not miss beds and chairs and tables. We maybe missed TV a little, but we hadn’t watched that much of it before, and the people at the campground were way more interesting to watch. And maybe, when dusk fell and the sun was still bright enough to dim the campfires and I knew it would be dark soon, it’s possible I missed the nightlight I was embarrassed I had still been using.
But outside dark isn’t scary like inside dark. I slept sound and woke rested, ready for adventure.