It’s day three of girl’s camp. Most are at the lake, but I’ve stayed behind for those that are hanging in their tents. I can hear their laughter, but they might as well be on a different planet for all our interaction. Still, if they need me, they’ll call and I’ll answer.
We hiked this morning—seven miles, but after about two I returned to camp with Alicia, a small for her age cancer survivor, weakened and forever medicated because of her years with chemo. I wondered what we would say to each other on our oh-so-slow return, but we easily chatted about movies and books. We have similar tastes. But, we’re not similar. I’m healthy and strong—I’ve always been so.
I like watching my daughters. They’re tall and beautiful in a raw, naked way that they don’t even know or recognize. They offer meaningful prayers and are open-armed friendly. Bold, honest, quick-witted. Nothing like me at age sixteen.
Thirty-seven girls and not one remind me of my younger-self. My mother died when I was fifteen. I think back to the people who loved me and I wonder why I couldn’t see or appreciate their concern. I didn’t want their pity. I was so much more interested in my peers. Boys. I was an empty hole of hurt. Emotionally vacant. Not really knowing where I belonged or fit.
The camp director grew up with two of the girls I knew on Study Abroad. London, 1981seems like a life time ago. The girls and the camp director are from Newport Beach. Back then, I thought my dad was rich, and for Arlington, he was. I hadn’t any comprehension of Newport Beach wealth. I only knew the Arlington haves and haves-not and in Arlington, you didn’t need a lot to be a haves. I had everything I wanted and didn’t know the world held so much more.
So many of the people I’ve loved have been lost, one way or another. Marriages that I thought would always last end. Friends turn into strangers. I wish I could take my daughters and shield them from addictions—substance addictions, sexual addictions, addictions to toxic relationships—but I can’t. No matter how strong I’ve always been, I can’t be strong for them. I can only answer if they call. I hope I can do at least that.
Someone once said that we learn more from our mistakes than from success. I still prefer successes to mistakes. I like to think that with faith I can avoid the big mistakes, the destroy everything I value and have worked so hard for mistakes, but I’m not sure. Although, I’m quite sure that mistakes will happen, no matter what, because deep down inside I’m still that young girl carrying emptiness, sometimes too caught up in myself to see the vacancies in the people around me.
About a mile from camp a man with a tractor pulled up beside Alicia. He held out a long, dark feather. Alicia didn’t take it, but I did and after thanking him, I handed it to her. Now, as I sit in the sun, still far away from the girls and their giggles, I see that Alicia has stuck the feather in her braid. It points up to the sky.