The other night, I pulled out my Chacos and slid my un-sunned feet into them, still sporting “winter” nail polish. (Chacos are those strappy river shoes you see on my feet to the left.) It instantly felt like summer and those six years ago when I guided river tours and spent an entire summer on a lake, living in a cabin.
Back in college, I spent every summer in school, determined to finish “on time.” With our rigorous business school, it was almost unheard of to finish in four years, but I was determined to be the exception. There were so many hot days I sat in Finance classes and upper-level marketing before running to my hostessing job, completely envious of my sorority sisters that lounged by the pool or took nanny jobs. I studied non-stop for four years, making Dean’s list and keeping my full-ride scholarship. By the time I graduated in May 2005, I was exhausted and about to get engaged and I needed a break. So I packed up my old trunk and drove four hours to the mountains of North Carolina, where I spent almost four months on the river.
It was the greatest adventure of my life. I lived in a cabin with six 15-year-olds and each night, I read them books from my childhood. Everyone laughed when I brought Judy Blume to camp for high school girls, but every night my girls would climb into their bunks and beg me to read just “one more chapter!” I taught girls how to swim and how to build a fire from scratch in the mountains. We would pack our framepacks and head up into the mountains for 3 days at a time, sometimes 5, and we’d cook pita pizzas on coals and roast s’mores.
That summer, I felt all the tension drain off my shoulders. The days were long and hot and the river was like coming home. Sometimes when I need a break, I close my eyes and picture the Blue Ridge Mountains and wish I could go back for one more summer.