In the next week, we’ll be launching our new podcast, Campfires and Color Wars. As the name implies (we hope — we went through a lot of iterations), it will be a podcast about summer camp.
This ain’t your kid’s podcast though — we’re not here to help them get ready to head to camp for the first time or soothe the nerves of their anxious parents. No, this is for everyone who, like us, spent summer after childhood summer at camp and, though we haven’t been back in years or perhaps decades, still misses it, thinks about it often, and, if we’re going to be honest, aches for the feeling we had there that the universe made sense, our place in it was clear, and no one was going to mock us for breaking out into song or cheer at any given moment.
While you’re waiting for this groundbreaking new podcast to drop, read on for a bit more about us, and why we both felt compelled to start this journey.
Micah: It’s been 16 years since I last spent a summer at camp, yet I probably dream about being there on average once a week. Summer camp is a part of my soul. It has as much to do with who I am as a person as the DNA I inherited from my parents.
Judy: I love that you compare camp to the DNA passed down to you, as though those things are not inextricably intertwined. When I talk about the camp my daughter will attend this summer, I refer to it as “the camp I grew up at.” My husband mocks me for this and tells me it’s confusing — that people are going to believe I literally grew up at camp. No. When you say you grew up at camp, you literally mean that, as the son of a camp director, you grew up at camp. When I say it, I mean I spent six childhood (really, adolescent) summers there. Which is all to say, the fact that you still dream about camp is completely understandable. Me, however … I have no excuse.
Micah: Six years is enough to me to qualify for “growing up at camp.” I’m biased though — I’d probably allow it if you simply went for a weekend art retreat. But really, numbers of years and literal versus figurative growing up don’t matter. What matters is, despite my aching for it, I cannot go back. Oh, I’m sure there are ways I could arrange it if I completely uprooted the life I’ve built for myself and my family, but that’s not really feasible.
Judy: I mean, we could do that, right? Our friend Jeremy was practicing law before he picked up and moved his family to become the director of our old camp.
Micah: It’s true, he did. The funny thing is, right around the time that happened, the director job at my father’s camp became open as well, and I had no interest in it. Then I heard Jeremy did it, and all of a sudden I was like, “Oh shit, did I just screw up?” But I snapped out of that pretty quick. Yes, I could quit my job to run a summer camp, or buy a plot of land in the middle of nowhere and build a house with poor ventilation and a wealth of daddy long legs, but it’s not realistic.
Judy: Yeah, it just doesn’t feel like a practical option. And, yeah, you’d need a shit ton of daddy long legs. It’s like someone rounded up all the daddy long legs in the world and told them the best place to hang out was the girls’ bathroom at this random camp in Indiana.
Micah: My point is, I want camp to be a part of my life, but I can’t go searching for it. It has to come — or I have to bring it — to me. And for the past few years, as I’ve been waking from these semi-regular camp dreams, I’ve been slowly figuring out how to accomplish this.
Like anyone raised at camp, I have a treasure chest of stories, meticulously catalogued in my brain and ready to be called upon at a moment’s notice given the right forum and conversation topic. It’s through sharing these memories that they stay alive, remaining sharp and vibrant while other experiences start to lose focus as I age.
Judy: Some of my favorite camp memories are already slipping away. I used to annoy my friends back home and, later, at college, by, Alyson Hannigan style, interjecting into every conversation any semi-relevant “this one time, at camp …” story I could. I don’t really do that any more. I mean, thank goodness, right? You’d be pretty weirded out if your attorney interrupted a deposition to talk about the time she had to kiss a guy on stage during the camp play and he — well, anyway, it’d be weird.
Micah: I’m going to need you to finish that story, Judy. What did he do? What did YOU do? I’m sorry to hear you don’t get to bring your camp experiences straight into the courtroom. You should have been a doctor — at least you could yell “Staff infection!”
Camp does have a sneaky way of inserting itself into your professional life. I had to plan a day of activities at work a couple years ago and used a camp motif — I even wrote a song parody for it! Probably the most satisfying achievement of my professional career if I’m honest.
Judy: Definitely not finishing that story, not here anyway, but I will get to my point. I don’t tell a lot of camp stories these days, but it’s not because it would be weird. Nor is it because, as a grown adult with a job and kids, I have fewer conversations that allow for a natural (or even not-so-natural) segue into a tale about my camp days.* It’s because I am forgetting those tales, and I really don’t want to. I believe that engaging in conversations with natural transitions into my own camp stories will trigger something for me, light up the recesses of my mind where those anecdotes lay dormant, and help me remember.
* It’s also definitely not because I had some revelation and matured into understanding how annoying it is to interrupt the flow of a conversation to tell your camp stories to people who weren’t there. I’ve experienced no such revelation or maturation.
Micah: I know there are others like us, and not just our friends from the camps we went to. Many of us have these stories, these networks, and regardless of your faith, background, or age, they translate.
Judy: What I miss more than the stories themselves is the feeling I had at camp — the feeling that telling those stories evoked when I couldn’t physically be there.
In his brief essay about Theater Geek, Mickey Rapkin’s book about the history of Stagedoor Manor, the renowned performing arts camp in the Catskills, Zach Braff beautifully described this feeling:
My mother used to say, “Camp is like being in love.” I didn’t understand her analogy until I fell in love for the first time and thought, This feeling I have for this girl—it’s a lot like how I felt at Stagedoor: accepted, loved for exactly what I was, and happy.
To experience this feeling. This is why I want to talk about camp, and why I hope people will listen.
Micah: This feels like a preview of what our dynamic is going to be like on this show. You come with something heartfelt and poignant, while the quote that comes to mind for me is from Wet Hot American Summer:
Before we start I’d just like to say that the campers you’re about to see suck dick. Nevertheless…please…welcome them.
I think we’ve sufficiently dissected why we’re doing this now. It’s time to start the show. No more putting it off. We need to seize our opportunity and to take the advice of a person we know well:
Don’t waste a minute.