Mid-March, and it feels more like late April. Remy and I walk in to camp and find only a few patches of snow left on the road. The ice on the pond has receded from the edges enough to let him wade in for a drink.
The outside thermometer says it’s in the mid-50s (the sun won’t hit the front of our west-facing camp for several more hours), and the one inside, 38 degrees. I’m hot from trudging a mile on the muddy road, and for once the coolness of the stale, unmoving air inside the camp is welcome.
I flop down on my mom’s old couch, the same one that she bought for our living room in Connecticut when I was about five. (It’s a Castro Convertible—the original convertible sleeper-sofa—which may explain why it’s still in such good shape, well into its fifth decade, while I’ve already been through several couches in my adult life. It weighs about two tons. They really don’t make ‘em like they used to, I guess.)
The battery-operated clock on the wall says 11:35. I wonder what time it really is; I take out my phone, and am surprised to see that it says…11:35. It seems impossible that time hasn’t come to a standstill here since we moved home from camp, almost six months ago.
I remember arriving in June, usually the day after school was out, when I was little, and waiting impatiently for my mother to unlock the door, pushing past her to be the first to inhale the odd, unmistakable scent—part pine boards, part mothballs, part decaying mouse—that meant we were home for the summer. In those days, the camp had usually been closed up tight for nearly ten months, the electric clock on the wall recording the exact moment when my mother had opened the fuse box, halting the current, the last thing she did before walking out the door and back into our other life.
I look around at the cobwebbed windows—the ones that don’t open because they’re really just old wooden storm windows (meant, according to my mother, to have been temporary, until she and my father got around to replacing them with double-hung windows with screens)—and dreadful 1960s wood-grain paneling. I think about all of the improvements we will consider, plan, but almost certainly not execute this summer. This is partly because of a lack of funds, of course, but mostly it’s because once we move to camp for the summer, we will be too busy just enjoying it—and by “busy,” I mean “picking blueberries, reading on the deck, kayaking, and napping in the hammock”—to want to take on many projects.
The walls are covered with bits of memorabilia—pennants from the colleges my four siblings attended (I never spent long enough at any one school in my 31-year pursuit of a degree to add one of my own); old motorboat registrations; newspaper clippings; a random assortment of photos from the past 50 years, slipped under the edges of the door casings.
I briefly consider taking down some of the clutter, tossing it or packing it away, before I invite the members of my writing group, who have never been to camp before, to a day-long writing retreat there in June…but I know I won’t. Like the 1970s-era tubes of Prell shampoo in the bathroom or the 2004 Travelers Insurance calendar in the bedroom (the last of several dozen of these annual gifts my mother received from her friends Betty and Elmer before she died), everything here has a purpose. In its own way, every scrap of paper, every curled photo, every ancient comic strip contributes to making camp what it is: a repository for nearly 60 years of the very best memories. It’s a musty, dusty, ramshackle place, where babies get mosquito bites, toddlers eat dirt, teenagers chase each other in motorboats, and grown-ups who have forgotten how to relax suddenly find they remember after all.