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Suzan Jackson - Writer
© 2000 Suzan L. Jackson
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Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Three Girls in the Mud

When I was about fifteen years old, my family spent our weekends at a campground about an hour away from our home.  We were new "seasonals" at this campground, meaning we left our camper there from May through October and drove up almost every weekend.  
Before, when my family had camped at various parks and campgrounds, I tended to stay close to my parents and sister, enjoying our natural surroundings and escaping from the daily peer pressures of a typical teen.  Things were different now, though.  Staying at one place meant participating in the community of campers there.  For me, this meant getting to know the local group of teen-agers who came to the campground every weekend with their families.

Before long, I'd become a part of the group.  I was happy to be included and soon became especially close to a girl my age named Amy.  Teens being teens, our group of friends spent most of our weekends at the campground just hanging out.  With no mall to go to, we hung out at the campground rec hall, a small wooden building with a juke box, pool tables, air hockey, and a few pinball machines.

On one particularly hot Fourth of July weekend, our usual gang of friends was doing just that - hanging out. Amy and I tried in vain to rally the group to get outside and do something.

"Hey!  How about if we walk up to the falls?"

"Nah.  It's too hot."

"We could go swimming." 

"I don't want to mess up my hair," one of the other girls replied.

"Let's take an inflatable boat down the creek!"

"Too much trouble."

Finally, bored of the rec hall and endless air hockey games, Amy and I and my friend Michelle, who was with my family for the weekend, left the other teens behind.  We got an inflatable boat from my camper and launched ourselves down the wide, slow creek that bordered the campground.  

Leaving behind the confines of normal teen-age life, the three of us relaxed, as you can only do with very close friends.  We drifted, we paddled, and we laughed our way downstream, packed into a two-person boat and enjoying the warm sun and the cool water.  The restrictions and inhibitions of trying to fit in and be cool slowly slipped away with the flowing creek.

Further downstream, past the boundaries of the campground, we spotted a flat area of bank alongside a deep pool and decided to stop for awhile.  At first we just laid in the sun and swam.  Then we discovered a large patch of clay-like mud on the bank and things got silly.
We squeezed the firm, moist clay between our fingers.  We rubbed it all over our arms and faces, like some expensive spa treatment.  We used each other's t-shirted backs as easels, drawing with the clay and rinsing off with a jump in the creek.  Mostly, we laughed and had fun, acting like the children we had so recently been.  It was an exhilarating feeling of freedom.

As the afternoon sun dipped lower in the sky, we began the long walk up the dirt road back to the campground.  We were a mess - soaking wet, covered with mud, our t-shirts forever stained with the dull brownish-gray clay.  We talked about what the other teens would think if they saw us looking so awful and acting so silly.  We laughed at the thought of the girl back in the rec hall who didn't want to get her hair wet now seeing us covered with clay and mud.  

Back at the campground, we showered, had dinner with our families, and got ready to rejoin the rest of the teens.  Throughout that evening, as we played pool and pinball and talked with our friends, the three of us exchanged private jokes and smiles, the memory of our carefree afternoon in the creek forming a special connection between us.

Twenty years later, all three of us still remember that day vividly.  It stands out in our minds as an afternoon of pure joy and friendship and laughter.  Although we all live in different states, I still get together with both of them.  We meet half-way with our families and go camping.  The outdoor world still helps to cement the bond of our friendships, as we watch our children forming their own bonds.

©  2001, Suzan L. Jackson