Monday, September 3, 2012

One Time, When I was at Band Camp...

Okay, make that two times. But who's counting?
Before you get the impression that I was some giant teenage trollop, I'd better explain.

Fredonia Summer Music Camp was my sweet slice of heaven. Nestled in upstate New York about fifty miles south of Buffalo, this program was my refuge from a hectic, responsibility-laden life. I went to camp three times as a teen, spending a combined total of just three weeks at SUNY Fredonia, but they were the best moments of my adolescent life.

At camp, I didn't have to care for a chronically ill mother. Or deal with the chaos caused by my seriously mentally ill sister. Or, more terrestrially, contend with my persistent insecurity over my marginal popularity.

At Fredonia, I was free to be just me, unburdened and normal for a fleeting few days a year.

I took advantage of it. When I was there, I laughed, was silly, made tons of friends, and of course, threw myself into my favorite subject: music. At Fredonia, I was suddenly bold, taking the stage with more confidence than I'd ever had, belting out show tunes at the evening talent show, singing Italian arias in my recital and grinding out down and dirty blues with the jazz band. I was in my element, among like-minded kids who didn't know me or my baggage from Eve. 

And...they liked me. They, really, really liked me. Especially the guys. *grin*

My first summer, I was among the youngest there, a rising freshman and was incredibly intimidated by some of the man-children roaming around. Many were nearly full-grown, muscular and, gasp, some even had facial hair. Next to them, I felt like a baby. So when one keyboard player made it clear he was interested, clinging extra close as we slow-danced to Madonna's Crazy for You at the weekly dance, I had to feign ignorance. 

But then the next year rolled around and I was ready for action. At the first night mixer party, I spied him, tall and lean, tan and gorgeous with the most dazzling smile. Our eyes met. My heart stopped. He was the hottest guy at camp. And more importantly, the attraction was mutual.  
Nothing stood in the way of our love,
not even my heinously short hair cut 
My Summer Love with the Sexy Saxophone player was nothing short of epic. We were perfect together. He cracked me up, I cracked him up, and he taught me a thing or two in a private practice room. And, better still, he lived in Westchester, NY which wasn't too far away from New York City, which wasn't too far away from my hometown on Long Island. We could totally make this work long-term, right? Right?

After camp, we did talk a few times on the phone, even met up once in the City, but despite the fact that I bought him the most kick ass burgundy-and-purple-plaid buttoned-down shirt, it fizzled. Or actually, he pretty much stopped calling. I'm not sure if I was devastated or just disappointed, but either way, it was my first taste of the ephemeral nature of Summer Love. 

But that was okay, because I was headed back to Fredonia.

The last time I went to camp, I was a rising senior. I wasn't exactly on the prowl, but I figured I'd probably hook up with some cutie. And what do you know? I did. I can't remember whether he played the trumpet or trombone but it was some kind of brass instrument that made his lips swell. In a good way.
He saw through my giant, baggy shirt to the inner me.
My Brass Player was from a little town just outside of Fredonia and he was very sweet. And innocent. I probably taught him a thing or two in one of those practice rooms. Anyway, when camp was over, it was my turn to do the heart breaking. When I was looking for this picture, I found a bunch of letters he sent after we left camp. He was seriously in love. Judging by how many months we exchanged our missives--all the way to December!--I must have had some feelings for him too, but honestly, I don't remember ever thinking this was more than a summer fling. It was fun while it lasted in glorious Fredonia, but in real life, he was a Country Boy and I was a suburban Long Island Girl with big city dreams. It was never going to work out. 

So while I'm sure a few Summer Loves have worked out, mine didn't. But that was okay. Because they gave me the confidence I needed to get through the rest of the year. And that was far from ephemeral.


Lea Nolan's YA debut novel, CONJURE, book one in The Hoodoo Apprentice series releases on October 16, 2012. You can learn more about Lea at her website and follow her on Twitter at @Lea_Nolan and Facebook. Learn more about CONJURE on Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Goodreads


Kimberly said...

What a terrific story! I loved it!!! At summer camps there is that feeling that you aren't in the real world, and it's so great to take advantage of that. I remember all my summer camps with an incredible fondness. Even my Christian camp. I actually hooked up with boys more there than anywhere else. LOL. I think it's because while the pastors and counselors were "saving" those other teens, I was backing out the door and sneaking off with some cute boy. The key was to get "saved" super fast so you could spend the rest of the week without that hassle hanging over your head. LOL. And way more time with the cute boys. Oh. I'm going to hell. In a hand basket. :-)
I love your pictures, Lea! I wasn't brave enough to post mine. Who thought those short haircuts were cute? Who??? I blame Mary Lou Retton 100%!
I know what you mean about leaving family responsibilities behind for those brief moments of carefree fun.
And when it comes right down to it, those summer romances did last. In your memories. Where they count the most. If it was something that you looked forward to all year long, and you treasured the time when you were there, they live on.
Just like my two glorious summers with Kevin from Torpitt Lodge. :-)
Great post, Lea!

Lorie Langdon said...

Excellent post! I love the image that camp was your escape and a place you could be yourself. Your childhood sounds kind of heartbreaking, so I'm glad you had this one special place. Thanks for sharing, Lea!

Pintip said...

Great post, Lea! I love your pictures. Your hair is so cute -- I can just see the confidence beaming out of you. Ah, summer camp. This post brought back so many memories! I loved summer camp because I could be whoever I wanted to be. It was a chance to reinvent myself. Come to think of it -- I got a hair cut very similar to yours when I was at summer camp right before senior year. That was perhaps an instance of too much reinventing...

Lea Nolan said...

Kim - See, it's the "good Christian girls" you've got to look out for ;) I was a good Catholic girl myself, and while I was mostly "good", as I've clearly attested on this blog, there was a little bad swirled in there too. :D

Yes, curse Mary Lou Retton and her wretched choppy cut! Who the heck ever thought up that style for a GIRL? No one with a brain, I tell you! If it wasn't for my boobie, I'd have been mistaken for a boy!

Lea Nolan said...

Thanks Lorie! Fredonia still holds a treasured place in my heart. I was very lucky to have been able to go. It cost a lot and my parents had to scrape to afford it, but it was worth every penny.

Lea Nolan said...

Pintip! Summer camp was awesome! And the perfect opportunity to do a little reinventing. Thanks for saying that cut was cute, even though you're lying ;) At least I had a wedge in that later shot--remember that hair cut? At least there was some hair in the back and it was sort of longish on the one side. Ugh. The 80s!

Micki Gibson said...

Rockin' the short 80's hair, Lea! And yes, those trumpet players do have very kissable lips. Though I didn't have band camp, I had baton camp and now realize what I was missing all those years....BOYS! (Okay, so there were the few doing the drum major workshops, but those were senior guys and I was a lowly junior high girl.) Great, fun post, Lea!