It happens at every camp, every year. With tools stolen from woodworking or arts and crafts children scratch and scribble their names on bunks, shelves, cabin walls, anywhere they can. The camps try and prevent it, they threaten that any and all graffiti will be photographed and sent to parents with a bill for damages. They make camp-sanctioned plaques that everyone in the cabin signs. The plaques have inside jokes and decorations and the camp hopes it will keep the children from trying to make their mark, but children will always try and make their mark. They scribble and scratch through very camp session, looking for the hidden spot that will let their name stand the test of time.
Some imagine that one day a future camper will come along and wonder about them. The future camper will feel a close connection to this mysterious name. One boy carves his name imagining himself 30 years in the future showing his son the hidden relic. He hopes that by leaving his mark, and showing his child how he did it, where he lived, he will have provided the guidance his own father has not. A girl practices her autograph, confident that one day a young girl will sleep here and be amazed that she is in the same spot that once housed the famous actress/model/champion horseback rider/wife of the rock star.
Others scribble furiously, desperate to mark and maim the place that has marked them. If their name stands that means they will have survived the stolen underwear thrown on the rafters, the mysteriously-always-wet bathroom floor, the endless bug bites, the slight shift to the right at circle time that forces the scribbler to push just a little too hard to break into the group. One day in a performance review her well-meaning boss will bring up her tendency to push too hard, to lecture when simply asking would have sufficed, to always make her presence felt. Neither of them will know where this tendency came from, never guessing it started here, under a scratchy wool blanket, stolen awl in hand.
Some write their names to kill time, waiting for their roommates to sleep. Only in the quiet can they safely bring the image of the waterfront counselor, still dressed in a damp swimsuit with a white t-shirt and the barest of shorts thrown over it, sneaking a cigarette behind the mess hall, to the forefront of their mind. They have held the precious image in the background all day. It would be too much to think of the tall blonde shivering slightly and jingling her anklet with every exhale with the creaking mattress noises of others’ fantasies, and so they write and wait for others to drift off to their satisfied sleep.
Some doodle without purpose. They have already developed a casual, cheerful indifference to the world around them. They will continue to carelessly mark the world letting their dirty socks and half-formed opinions litter other people’s pristine floors, leaving their names scrawled carelessly on hearts and walls.
And then summer is over. The scribblers, happy, furious, sad, and indifferent go home. Some go home to happier lives full of friends who have never seen them naked, friends who do not find it funny to try and spill their bug juice at every meal. Some go home to fighting parents and vindictive teachers, to bullies who are not impressed by their ability with a canoe. They dare not scribble on walls at school, instead during math class they silently finger the lanyard hidden in their pocket. The maintenance crew will come and seek out the names, scrubbing and spackling them away wherever possible. Early next summer a new group will come, looking to see if their name survived, wondering if they will ever make a mark.