Vision: LANYARDS & LUMPS & S’MORES by Howard Hanger

July 17, 2019 |

“Why not?” Amanda Jane demanded of her mom?  “Why can’t I wear a two-piece bathing suit to camp?  The camp rules only say they ‘recommend’ a one-piece.  ‘Recommend’ is not a law.  ‘Recommend’ is a suggestion. It’s an idea. And, in this case, it’s a bad one.”

Amanda Jane and her mom were out shopping for camp supplies. They had the flashlight, water bottle, river shoes, sunscreen, bug spray, hair ties, ditty bag, stationery, towel and sleeping bag.  But they had yet to settle on a bathing suit.  And though for every 8 year-old girl the choice of a swimsuit is important, for Amanda Jane it was crucial. Fundamental. For Amanda Jane, the swimsuit defines you.  More than tank tops, shorts, flip-flops or hats, the swim suit is what tells everyone who you are.  It’s all about the swimsuit. And Amanda Jane had designed and created her own.

In a few days, Amanda Jane was going to be leaving for an entire week at her first overnight summer camp.  For an 8 year-old, this is big-time; and Amanda Jane had made sure that everyone knew it was overnight.  “Amanda Jane will be leaving for camp soon,” her mother would tell a friend in the grocery store.  “Overnight camp!” Amanda would interject.  “A whole week!  Overnight!”

But, now the issue was the bathing suit.  Camp Karma – her mom had gone there as a young girl – had a more spiritual rather than religious emphasis.  At meal-time, rather than prayers, they Om’d.  Morning yoga replaced morning meditation.  And, rather than “Kum Ba Yah, My Lord,” around the campfire, it was “Kum Ba Yah, Ying Yang.”  And though the leadership of the Camp was anything but prudish (after-hours camp-leader skinny dips were a tradition), they did recommend one-piece bathing suits so tender 8 year-old tummies and backs would be less threatened by the sun.

“Mom,” Amanda Jane persisted, “You know I have already made my own bathing suit.  It’s cool.  There’s not another one like it.  You always wanted me to be my own person.  Why not now?”

And the truth was that she had. Conceived, designed and created.  She had made it out of her favorite Halloween costume from two years ago.  That year, she had trick-or-treated as an anteater.  Though everyone thought she was an elephant. “Oh, look at the cute little elephant,” the candy-conduit neighbors would say.  “Is it true that an elephant never forgets?”

“I’m not an elephant!” Amanda Jane would respond.  “I’m an anteater.”  But, it was, by far, her all-time favorite costume.  No one  – that year or anytime as far as she knew – had ever been an anteater.  But she had.  She loved that costume and wanted to keep it forever.  And, now that she was too big to wiggle into her prized prominent proboscis, she decided that the adored anteater could reincarnate as a bathing suit.  Which, with her help, it did.  And even a little glitter added for special effect.  “Please, Mom,” she implored, going for the puppy-dog-in-the-pound look.  “Please.”

It worked.  “You’re on,” said Mom.  “But if the camp lifeguard says you need a one-piece, you’re on you own.”

But the camp lifeguard didn’t say a word.  And the anteater two-piece was a hit. Several girls in her cabin asked to wear it and Amanda Jane was glad to share.

So she made lanyards and birdhouses and friends.  She slept on lumpy, sandy mattresses and ate watermelon, peanut butter and s’mores.  She rode horses and canoed and sang “You Are My Sunshine” and “Country Roads” and “Baby Bumblebee.”  But, at swim time, as she slipped into her always-wet anteater two-piece, she felt proud and happy that things you love can change and you can love them still – and sometimes, love them even more.