Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 60 of 365: King's Campground

It seems fitting my last entry included a poem about King's Campground. A crappy poem, but a poem all the same.

I had a gig yesterday for SportRack. I was pumped that I had finally nailed a job through my newest agency. The only drawback? The shoot location was on the coast of Connecticut. Call time? 9:30 a.m. And, since it was essentially a fitness shoot, I was in charge of hair and makeup, and I needed to arrive ready to shoot.

The shoot itself went quicker than expected. I spent a few hours hoisting up and down a kayak from an SUV and carrying it off to the shoreline, all the while acting way too happy for the amount of strain I was putting on my shoulders and back. But it was worth it, just to be on the beach again. I spent an additional hour after we wrapped just walking where the ocean met the sand, taking my own set of pictures and listening to Maria Mena's "I Always Liked That" on constant repeat.

I had to stop for gas halfway through my trip back to New Hampshire. I pulled off at a little gas station over the Massachusetts border, only to realize that I had pulled off in Douglas, MA. Which is next door to Sutton, MA. Which is home to King's Campground.

I haven't been to King's in years. Years. In fact, I haven't been there in almost exactly 8 years (give or take a week). Part of me hesitated: I had left Connecticut at a good time and, for the most part, had been avoiding any rush hour traffic. This excursion would almost definitely land me in prime rush hour traffic time. But I knew I had to: there was no telling when I would be in the area again, and I would kick myself if I let something as practical as traffic affect a trip down memory lane.

I checked to make sure I still had battery life in my camera and went onwards. I thought about all the things I would want to photograph: the general store, the pavilion, the little house on the hill that I had sworn someday I would buy.

I drove down the little roads, twisting and turning and passing by all the familiar sights: the waterslide park that we went to a grand total of once, the store set up by the local farm, the set of signs that told drivers where each campground was.

And, off in the distance, stood King's Campground. Where a lifetime of memories had been made. Where I had my first encounter with an emu (thanks to the petting zoo). Where I had my first encounter with love. Where I swore I would return someday, in some fashion.

There stood King's Campground: a total disappointment.

The general store was closed already for the season. The petting zoo was gone, the fences torn down, the chicken coup and stables long gone, replaced by more camping sites. The owner's home across the street -- a place that was just so cool when I was a teenager -- revealed itself to be a simple ranch house, with a little inground pool surrounded by a chainlink fence off to the side. The roads felt more narrow than I remember. The lake didn't have the same splendor. Even the house on the hill was just a house: a feeble cape with a broken screen door and a cracked driveway.

I continued driving down the road, reliving the areas that I one biked or walked every single day. The areas were still lovely, but lacked that profound emotional response that I would get as a teenager, and were further dulled by the fact that I now lived in a town similar to Sutton, so little roads with farmhouses was nothing new for me.

In a way, it was fitting that King's seemed so painfully common upon revisiting. Everything about King's had a larger than life feel when I was younger. From the boy I was madly in love with to the girl who he would cast me aside for (and I was wildly jealous of). From the cool clique that I was never fully accepted in to the misfits who took me in as one of the boys to the neighbors who lived just outside the campground limits. Everything seemed so much more important than me. The same way that I can check in on the people from the campground and see that there was nothing inherently incredible about them -- the same way I can check in on my first puppy love and chuckle and wonder what I ever saw in him -- revisiting King's Campground removed the glamour and showed the place for what it actually was. A nice campground, but a campground all the same.

I remember when I was 18 and still trying to completely sort out my feelings. I knew my time at King's was coming to an end and I felt heavy. The idea of leaving King's meant leaving behind years of friendships and relationships and enough time alone along the small town roads to make any introvert happy. And it meant leaving the certain boy, a boy that I was no longer in love with like I had before, but a boy that still held such a huge piece of me. Leaving King's meant putting the final nail on a coffin that had been buried years before. And while I was okay with it, it still weighed me down. And now I drive by King's, the memories and emotions tied to the land feeling as airy and ethereal as the clouds above me.

I stopped by the farm store on my way home and picked up a few items that my family always seemed to get. Jumbo eggs that you can never get in the regular grocery stores. Fresh apple cider. I said my hellos to a little calf taking a nap in a fenced-in area by the store. And I made my way back to New Hampshire, listening to all the albums that were so profound for me when I was 16.

And, before I knew it, I was back over the border. Back at my house. Nursing a sunburn and finding the energy to teach my tai chi class. I was hours away from the beaches on Connecticut and over an hour away from the campground. And now, as I write this, I have Maria Mena's "I Always Liked That" again on constant repeat, remembering the endless nights at King's, dodging curfew and telling crude jokes under the pavilion, with the same peaceful pining as the memories of the waves in Connecticut crashing on the shore as I dipped my toes in and looked off into the horizon.

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