The summer in between 6th and 7th grade, my parents sent my sister and I away for 4 weeks to a sleep-away camp out in Cleveland, GA. We lived in Florida at the time so going to an entirely different state without our parents struck fear in my heart.
At the time, it seemed like cruel and unusual punishment.
We pleaded with our parents, "But why do you want to send us away for an ENTIRE month?! What did we do wrong?", followed by empty promises like vowing to wash the dishes every single night without complaining, never talking smack to them again...whatever we could think of to get them to change their minds. Unsuccessfully, I might add.
They drove us out to Georgia that first summer away from home, which I suspected was their indirect way of saying, "Look, we love you enough to at least check the camp out with you in person".
I had asked, "So, if we don't like it, you'll let us come home with you?"
My mother howled hysterically while my father tried his best to stifle his laughter. He said, "No, you'll be staying, regardless. If you don't like it, you'll LEARN to like it. Besides, we already paid for it."
My sister and I looked at each other and frowned. If they had already paid for it, we knew there was no way in hell we could get out of going. My father didn't part easily with any of his hard-earned money so any time he wrote a big check, we knew it was a done deal.
What had our mother done to convince him this was in everyone's best interest?
I imagined that she had driven our easy-to-manipulate father out to some remote part of the Everglades one day, smiling cleverly as she revealed, "This is what our summer could be like with the kids gone".
He had probably asked, "What?! I don't hear anything. It's completely quiet."
"That's EXACTLY my point!" she had shouted, I envisioned, with such enthusiasm that even the alligators came out of the swampy sawgrass to see what all the fuss was about.
Then they probably just sat there, smiling like 2 sugar-starved kids who had found themselves locked inside a candy store after hours.
The next 3 summers after that they simply dropped us off at the airport with all the other kids whose parents didn't love them.
Oh, and I should probably mention that 2 of those summers, we were sent away for an entire 8 weeks. EIGHT freakin' WEEKS, people.
The camp counselors could've been ravenous cannibals feasting on young unsuspecting campers, for all they knew.
Our parents just wanted to be rid of two of their most important responsibilities...namely, my sister and I... in which they were burdened with after a couple of occasions of indulging in one too many alcoholic drinks and foolishly believing that drunken sperm couldn't successfully connect with an anxiously awaiting egg.
One summer in particular they pretty much screamed, "Tuck and roll..." as they pulled up to the curb outside the Delta airport terminal and opened the door barely enough for us to jump out before they sped off.
Anyway, so that first summer...we arrived at the camp and I immediately knew I was gonna hate the place. It reminded me of Camp Crystal Lake.
My dad must have been thinking the same thing because the first thing he said was, "Oh, look...they have a lake here. Kind of like the one in Friday the 13th. You probably better make sure you get the top bunk".
I could've sworn I saw a glimmer of evil wash over his face. This was the same father who stood outside my bedroom door repeating that creepy "sssshhhh-sssshhh-ha-ha-ha" sound after I had seen the Friday the 13th movie for the first time....ironically, about a month before we left for camp.
I wasn't above suspecting that he had planned it that way on purpose.
Once my sister and I were settled into our separate cabins, the procreators who casually referred to themselves as "our parents" left. They practically high-5'd each other and ran to their car before we could come chasing after them.
I thought they were absolutely sinister and silently prayed that they would end up with a couple of flat tires at some point during their drive back.
But as it turns out, I fell in love with the place. My fellow campers were amazing, some of them even becoming life-long friends of mine. The counselors turned out to be anything but hungry cannibals and the camp activities were more fun than I could have imagined.
And this, my friends, is where I experienced my first kiss...
His name was Marc and he was from Alabama...I just loved the way his sweet southern accent would roll of his tongue everytime he'd say, "Hey, ya'all". He had beautiful brown eyes and an adorable nose, which was spattered with a light dusting of freckles.
My tummy did flip-flops with excitement the first time he held my hand.
But holding hands can only last for so long, right? Soon enough, as we were walking back to our cabins after one of the night activities, he stopped and turned to face me.
"Oh dear God, he wants to kiss me," I thought, as my heart pounded with a little bit of anticipation and a whole lot of fear.
I had never kissed anyone before. Why hadn't I thought to ask any of my cabinmates how to kiss? Was he going to stick his tongue in my mouth?
The thought made me cringe. I mean, I liked him but not enough to exchange bodily fluids with him. Maybe it would be just a quick, simple kiss...for now, anyway.
I tried to engage him in nervous chatter, with the hopes that he'd get lost in conversation and forget all about the fact that he wanted to kiss me.
"So, the activity tonight was fun, didn't you think?" I asked.
He had shrugged his shoulders and said, "Yeah, I guess". He leaned towards me again, his eyes closed...his mouth partway open.
There was no way I could avoid it. I just had to do it and get it over with. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad, after all.
Finally, I leaned in towards him and closed my eyes. His lips met mine and his hands gently caressed my face. He pulled me closer to him, so close that I could feel his heart beating against mine.
Oh no...what was the boy doing?! He was trying to push his tongue into my mouth! I kept my lips sealed as tightly as possible, refusing to let him steal the innocence of my very first kiss.
After a few seconds, which felt like an eternity when holding your breath, we moved away from one another and without saying a word, he walked me back to my cabin. Once there, he gave me a quick peck on the cheek.
I stood outside the cabin, watching him as he walked away... until I could no longer see his reflection in the moonlight beaming down on him.
I'm sure Marc had suspected it had been my first kiss...how could he not? Everything about it had screamed "inexperienced", "disaster" and, let's not forget, "prude".
Could he feel me shaking as he pulled me closer to him? Did the sound of my pounding heart echo in his ears as loudly as it had in my own? Would he go back and report to his cabinmates how dreadful the experience had been?
I played the scene over and over in my head, fantasizing that it had been better than it actually was...when in reality, I had to accept that it had, more than likely, been an embarrassing disappointment for both of us.
That was the last summer I saw Marc. We didn't keep in touch once summer camp was over and we both had returned home.
I did have one picture of him which I had taken of him standing on the sand near the lake...the same lake in which my father had tried to convince me where Jason Voorhees was still lurking while maliciously planning his next bloody attack on some naive, prepubscent campers in the throws of heated passion.
The memory of that first kiss will always have a special place, deep in my heart...right above the spot where I suffer from horrible indigestion every time I recall that disconcerting and ill-fated moment in my life....just one of many moments, in fact.