Bay Village High School
Instructor: Erin Beirne
The Fabric of my Being
Personal Essay & Memoir
The Fabric of my Being
The curve in my back sends shocking pains through my body. Rough, broken skin rubbed raw by incessant pulling and tightening of knots. But I can't stop. Instead, I squint at the laptop sat in front of me, colored ties illuminated with arrows pointing down every life path. Beads of sweat glisten on my hairline. Finally, I concede to my body's screams and toss myself back against the pillows. With eyes peering into the darkened abyss on my eyelids, I see through the maroon, periwinkle, and burnt orange; I see their hopes, struggles, and passions burning into my retina. But I can also see my own. I can see my eleven year old self, six years ago, arriving at her newest adventure: Girl Scout Camp.
I never liked sleepovers, but somehow Camp Sunrise's valley views, surplus of lakes, and enticing website persuaded my hesitant mind to attend. But upon arrival, I could see the wooded cabins were much less than the air conditioned homes I'd stayed in on previous vacations with my family. Keep an open mind, my parents always said, so I looked past their worried looks and ran to claim the top bunk. I didn't shed a tear when my parents left, and though I find this hard to believe now, I don't recall any deep blue sorrow. The bit of soft pink in my cheeks imprinted excitement on my memories as I sat with my cabinmates. Some spoke tales of their last summer at Tibberland while curious listeners, such as myself, eavesdropped. Others stayed in their bed mourning the loss of their parents after their departure. I kept to myself and surveyed my home for the next week. Rickety oak wood frames with flimsy mattresses lined the perimeter of the room. The walls looked as though they were made of sticky bruce wood, the same wood that had created the long table me and my bunkmates now sit at. At the head of the table, the end of the cabin, was a stone fireplace, dusty, but not the sort of dust created by fires. Rather the accumulation of winters crusted over navy and empty space. Or perhaps the lack of desire for cleanliness, the first option soothed my worry a bit more than the latter.
I was no stranger to earth brown cabins; all my life I had grown up in tiny shacks with no electricity, bouncing from one National Park to another. However, something about this camp left me feeling uneasy. But the counselors' funny names and stories put me at ease. Instantaneously, my favorite counselor was Starfish; her arms were covered in colorful bands of mesmerizing patterns. Bits of her honey hair slung around her face, framing the bubble of energy that soothed all sorrow. She seemed to tower over my tiny frame but always bent down to lend a helping hand when needed. I quickly found her neon bracelets foreshadowed her eccentric personality. I would soon see that all throughout camp, she would do her best to cheer everyone up, no matter the cost. Whether it be pretending to be a camp spirit and snuck candies into our shoes or lending me an extra marshmallow when I dropped mine during campfire, she was always at our sides to lend a helping hand. But right now, to my amazement, she whipped out a bag full of equally bright strings and handed them to everyone at the table. I chose the same colors as her, of course, settled with neon yellow and radioactive blue. All us girls sat in awe as she demonstrated how to do a box pattern. The more seasoned campers understood her instructions right away, but I struggled. Yet, my little mind knew not to give up— I would master the craft, and my arms too would be decorated in bracelets by the end of the getaway.
The rest of the week was filled with pasty green, bug infested food and sweaty pearlescent nights where I'd stick to my sheets. Together, me and my friends would follow Starfish and the other sea animal counselors, pestering them to reveal their true names.
"Next year," they always said, "when you're old enough to become junior counselors." But I knew I would not be returning.
As midnight haze encroached upon the end of week, my neon wrists shone brightly. It took everything in my anxiety riddled eleven-year-old mind to look beyond the musty brown cabins and focus on my newfound craft. By the last day, Starfish had passed on all her knowledge, and she had proclaimed me a master. Moments before my parents' car would arrive, she pulled me aside and took me behind the mess-hall. She placed a perfectly straight box-patterned bracelet into my tiny tan hand. Its checkered patterns of black, yellow, and green engulfed my eyes. She had a matching one bound around her arm and bent down to secure mine.
"Katherine is my real name," and with that, my summer going into sixth grade was complete.
I open my eyes and glance down at my current form, sixteen years old. Then glance at my taxing project and wonder if an eleven-year old me would be surprised at how far my skills have come. Or how much I've grown in general. Sometime within the last six years, the aggressive colors have found balance. Muted, she would call them. Boring. But the wacky patterns make up for it.
My momentary relaxation must cease. I'm working on a deadline after all. I knot the end and fishtail the loose threads. I place my projects next to each other, one adventurous green, one excited pink, and one kind blue. All of the same pattern, all products of my raw emotions. My friends, their muse. Carefully, I set them in my olive green tote and maneuver my way across the ocean of clothes at the foot of my bed. My phone vibrates as I reach the bottom of my stairs. The text from Annie reads: HERE. My cautious jade mannerisms spiral into a frenzy as I rush to find matching shoes. The garage cannot open its mouth fast enough for me to sprint out into my friend, Rose's, car.
Wrenching open the car door, I practically yell, "Close your eyes!" Shock spreads across the duo's faces as I clambered into the car. Confusion between the two as they conceded to my demand. "Now, open your hands."
Even with the persistent resistance of my questioning, they proceeded to open their hands. I softly place the pieces of my hard work, the essence of my soul into their palms. Both of their eyes shoot open, and they stare at my masterpiece of knots. Zig-zag patterns intertwined with one another. A chorus of praise and excitement ensues as they realize I've made a matching set. I take the firm bracelet and tie it around their wrists. Then, I wrap it around my own, adding it to my arm's memorial of memories.
Another year goes by, and we're all left to suffocate in our tiny, pastel town. My bodacious pink bracelet now holds a year's worth of conversations and emotions. The blue and green sisters to my pink bracelet have met their end; torn, ripped, dirty. But somehow mine has never left the comfort of my wrist. For months I've been faced with their chatter to create new mementos, new bracelets. Months, I've had to replace the fallen soldiers. Yet I'm stuck, unable to translate our lengthy friendships into a single token of love. I spent every summer sun since sixth grade infatuated with the creation of bracelets and sharing them with those closest to me. But the summer sun has turned a chilly orange, and school has occupied every inch of my life. My box of rainbow bands I had spent hours organizing and spooling was now shoved under my bed. Instead of BraceletBook.com on my browser, I was working on college applications.
Now my arms are covered in cotton sweatshirts, sheathing my expressions. My free time of frosted blue freezes over. With the transition of orange leaves to brown, time spent with friends becomes as fleeting as a daisy's bloom in October.
Preparation for our departures. Some will stay in our ever changing home, some will welcome the southern sun with gracious smiles. I will go north of them all, covered in a vale of blizzards, surrounded by green mountains. It's in those lonely gray times I will roll my sleeve up and glance at my tether to them, home, and myself.