Do you remember that night in the lodge, when one of the Chicago quintuplets — was it Leslie? — recited “Hug ‘O War” for the entire girls’ camp? That took guts. She got up there all alone, and when she recited “where everybody hugs/instead of tugs,” she wrapped her arms around herself and squeezed so tight.
I read that poem to A. this morning. When I showed him the line drawing of a boy and girl hugging, I thought of Leslie and summers in Bemidji. I thought of late-night council fires. I saw you standing there in the dark, with your foot propped on a log. I heard the fire crackle. I saw the flashlight you held a few inches over your Silverstein book. I heard your voice, interrupted by loons.
I never thanked you for council fires. Or crossing the stream on Sunday mornings. Or birch trees. I never thanked you for Cat Stevens, James Taylor, or Pure Prairie League. Remember the night Willard played “Amy” on his acoustic guitar?
I still know the story of your nickname. You were in a relay race, and you were supposed to eat a package of Saltines and whistle. But you couldn’t whistle. Why was I so embarrassed about my own nickname? It was my idea. You announced it one night in the lodge, standing in front of the microphone, and you were so proud. You had a full beard that summer, and you wore your white jersey shirt with the green thunderbird over the pocket.
If you still have that shirt, save it for me.