Tom Petty sang, “I feel summer creeping in and I’m tired of this town again.” If summer creeps in as it does, evenings slowly heating up, days becoming thicker, then so does autumn. It slips into summer like two people holding hands, fingers entwining. Cool nights mix with still hot days. Leaves start to fall and make the air smell damp and crunchy. The breeze no longer carries the smell of fresh cut grass and cookouts. Certain things signal the ending of summer creeping up. The sun sets sooner which leaves less time after dinner to play barefooted outside. Fireflies flicker less frequently. Just as certain are the signs of an oncoming autumn. Aisles overflow with notebooks, pencils and folders at Target and Wal-Mart. Kids proudly sport back-to-school shoes, clothes and haircuts.
I’ve always had one sure sign of summer’s end and the beginning of autumn. Camp ends. Every August I drive, or flew as occasion had it, out of the mountains and away from my summer. I leave behind me a million memories, new friends, a t-shirt and a few socks, and a piece of me that, no matter how hard I try, never sees the cornfields of Indiana. My southern mountain girl stays at The Cove and waits until I return the next summer to the place when the fireflies flicker over the lake and the stars fill the endlessly huge mountain sky. I’ve spend countless hours trying to get that part of me to return home. I manage to bring mold back in my trunk, photos on my camera, and plane letters in my bag but something of who I am, the young woman who confidently directed her counselors, encouraged her campers, scheduled and taught endless lessons never sees the real world. Neither did the girl who didn’t glance in the mirror before she left the cabin, who sang too loudly and off key, who hugged her best friends often and didn’t hold back. People always tell me that I’ve changed at the end of the summer when I return to real life. I know it too. I just wish that my parents, my friends, everyone out here who might doubt me, could see who I am when I am truly in my element.