I always preferred the top bunk

I always preferred the top bunk. It was less confined. When I grew taller it seemed easier to let my feet dangle a little off of the upper bed, than the bottom.

The screens in the windows of each of the cabins reached from the roof pitch down almost to the top of the green plastic mattresses that crinkled when you moved.

At night, when counselors had free time, you could watch college-aged figures move across the dark camper area and imagine what kind of cool things they were doing when they were [seemingly] free of responsibility.

If you closed your eyes you could practically pretend you were sleeping outside.

I always loved the feeling of outdoor sleeping. One year when I was on Senior Staff at the same camp I let 50+ 3rd through 5th grade campers drag their mattresses to the open air unit lodge so we could have a “campout” on the last night of the week.

Staff set up on the outskirts of the lodge, campers in between, and me with my mattress on top of a picnic table in the middle of the space. I could see or hear anything that might go wrong, but I knew nothing would.

It was the kind of place where things just didn’t go wrong.

At home I always slept as far away from the window as possible. From the time I was a small child I did this – as though the few feet worth of extra effort it’d take a kidnapper to grab me would make them stop short. I was always scared at night – of the alligator under my bed when I was young, or the killer who might see me if I let any part of my body stick out from under the blanket.

At camp I didn’t need the cover of a blanket. For the week I was away at camp, I didn’t have those fears.

When I was older and working as a counselor at the same camp, I’d often lie on the top bunk in the counselor quarters at night and listen to the whispers of campers who should’ve been sleeping. Sometimes I’d quiet them. Usually I’d let them talk themselves into a soft lull before they drifted off, occasionally I’d chime in.

In those summers, I met dozens of kids who slept deep under the covers at home for fear of a kidnapper, or didn’t want to know what was hiding under their beds. I met kids who couldn’t sleep on Sunday night of the camp week and I listened from my bunk on Thursday and Friday as their snores became the first I heard drifting through the stillness from the other room.

They knew it was a place where things didn’t go wrong.




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