It's not very often that I am jealous of a kid, but it has happened. It was during a summer vacation in York, Maine.
York, Maine is a place of many memories for me. When I was a kid, my family camped there for a week every year for many years. We had a large tent, bunk bed cots, and almost enough room for the five of us. I remember hating the whole idea of it -- leaving our solid house to go live in a cloth dwelling like a family of gypsies. Having to plan clothing for an entire week. It was hell.
We would leave after Dad got home from work, and arrive at the campground in near-dark (best case scenario) or pitch dark (usual scenario), often getting the only available, least desirable site in the tent park. It seemed like it always rained, and Dad would often have to dig a trench around the tent, which leaked if we left something (like the cooler) touching the fabric. It was also cold and I never had warm enough clothes, but anything less than 88 degrees was (and still is) cold to me.
My camping memories include such delights as being awoken from a solid sleep by the train that passed through the area at around 3 a.m. or some other ungodly hour, so close to our tent that it seemed it was coming through the tent and we would all be killed. I'm sure this heart pounding feature explains why it was the last site available. One summer my brother accidentally dropped a large rock on my sister's hand, requiring a trip to the ER and a wrist brace she was horrified to wear.
There were comical camping moments involving wildlife, like the goat trying to eat my sister's shirt, a llama chasing my brother, and a duck harassing my Dad on separate visits to the York Wild Animal Kingdom and Amusement Park. There was once a red fox that lept over our campfire. There were mosquitoes the size of personal jets.
On a more recent visit to York, we visited the amusement park, where I was the only adult willing to go on the rides with my nieces. The idea that I am actually an adult is laughable to me, but I guess I have lightened up in my old age. I was more of a stuffy old person at age 11 than I am now, which stunk for the young me, but at least I can have fun now. Anyway. My nieces, aged 15, 11 and 9, and I had a blast on the spinning rides, Ferris wheel, fun house, and bumper cars.
During the day at the park, my nieces saw two girls they knew from home. In both cases, the girls were traversing the park and going on rides alone. ALONE. Unaccompanied. Carefree. One girl was solo and laughing on the Scrambler. The other bold little thrill seeker kept riding the ride where you are strapped standing in a cage that spins like a centrifuge. I watched these girls of approximately 10 years old, each on her own, having fun, alone, without an ounce of self consciousness. I admired what I decided was bravado. I love their carefree spirit. And I was jealous. Jealous of two tweens.
When I was 10, the only solo activity I was comfortable with was visiting the library, where I would routinely check out piles of books to hole up in my room and read. If my friends weren't available to accompany me to something, I didn't do it. I was 36 before I sucked it up and ate alone in a restaurant, instead of hunkering down alone with takeout.
Seeing the two girls in the amusement park, I wished when I was their age that I was as independent and happy as they appeared to be. Hell, let's be real. I wished at my current age that I was as happy and carefree as they appeared to me that day. Maybe someday.