We’d finally arrived at big kid’s camp! Camp Osceola, amid the pines of Southern California’s highest mountains, was amazing. The moment we got off the bus, we were assigned to our cabins. We ran to our new homes, claimed our bunks, chose our group name, and then spelled it out in rocks outside!
My BFF Jeff and I bunked together. We’d had untold numbers of sleepovers, and apparently had adopted an unconscious language unique to us. The next morning, we were rudely awakened by laughter. The other boys were standing around guffawing. Apparently, they told us, Jeff and I had carried on a conversation in our sleep that went something like:
“Hey, Jeff, why buy marble tree?”
“Ah, horse in my shoes.”
“Neato. Got mom with monster hammer?”
“Uh-huh. And twice meatballs.”
“Oh, OK, good, goo. Poot.”
Jeff and I did everything together. Except one. Inspired by endless sky and rocky peaks, I began hungering to commune with the infinite. The YMCA had a voluntary “Ragger” program, a de-militarized equivalent to Boy Scout merit badges. We were invited to make a voluntary vow, something secret between us and God. I decided to stop saying “bad words” I’d adopted in emulation of the “cool kids” I didn’t really want to be like anyway. We were given a colored scarf (“rag”) to wear as a symbol of our vow, and then led blindfolded to a holy place called Raggers Point, where we could sit and talk with God.
I still had no clue how to do that. So I looked at the view for awhile, and then made my oath to stop cussing, or at least say, “I’m sorry” each time I did it. No Monty Python-esque voice boomed out of the sky, “Gee, that’s swell, Mitch!” No cloudy animated finger wrote, “So happy to hear it!” Heck, I’d have even settled for gibberish, like the stuff Jeff mumbled when I asked him questions in my sleep! Nothing. Not even nonsense.
I went for another rag the following summer because I really liked the color, but I eventually learned to feed my hunger for the infinite with things like music, girls, and dreams of fame. Still, the longing never was never satisfied. Because, as it turned out, those things were only big enough for a me-shaped hole. They eventually started to rattle around and finally disappeared altogether into that infinitely larger…