So fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain
Just remember till you’re home again
You belong to me.
I stand and sing on that hot summer night. Wearing a green floral dress. Holding a guitar I barely know how to play. In front of me is a hissing campfire and rows of children sitting on wooden platforms looking at me expectantly. Behind me are two senior counselors, a setting sun and Waubee lake.
I am scared shitless. I had watched my superiors sing in front of the campfire for ten years, echoing the melodies they executed with seemingly effortless confidence. I had longed to be them and now that I am standing here, I can’t remember the words to the song that only I know. Why did I think it would be a good idea to introduce a new song?
The fire is too hot. I’m sweating. I need to improvise.
See the sunset over Waubee bay
Save the moment for a winter day
Just remember when you’re far away
You belong to me.
That was my first time leading campfire. It was my favorite. Every time after that night I ended singing You Belong To Me with the lyrics I had added and often thought about in the winter when I remembered those cherished summer nights.
You Belong to Me is a sad love song originally written by a female artist during the WWII era who was longing for her soldier to come home. It’s perfect for a dark, hot evening around a campfire. It’s hopeful and beautiful and has always let me imagine all of the adventures I would go on in the future and the people who I would leave behind, loving me unconditionally from afar. It’s been aspirational in a weird way.
For so long I identified with the singer of the song without realizing it. I sat around the same campfire every year and sang about adventures other people were having while I was sitting in the same place I’d always been. I was the one pleading with the adventurers to send me photographs and souvenirs. I didn’t think that it related to me because I wasn’t deeply in love with someone who was flying the ocean in a silver plane. I didn’t want to be in love, I wanted to be the adventurer.
It’s been two summers since I stood in front of the campfire with a sunset behind me, but the last time I was there I knew it was probably going to be my last.
When I sang it that night, I wanted You Belong To Me it to be my legacy. I wanted that to be how camp remembered me when summer rolled around and I didn’t. But that night it was still me singing to camp. I’ll be so alone without you/maybe you’ll be lonesome too. I could leave. I could go to college and “grow up” but I’d still be hung up on that blue lake in the woods.
Two years later I’m conscious that there will be songs sung around the fire without me. I’m also aware that it’s unlikely that anyone will sing my song. It’s fitting. I am no longer there to be the literal or figurative singer of the song. I’m not the one sitting in place dreaming of adventures. Now I’m the one flying the ocean in a silver plane. I’m the one going places.
Even though I’ve become the detached figure in an old song to people at camp, if they sing You Belong To Me, it’ll still be relevant. It’ll be like they’re singing about me. I haven’t been cut loose. I don’t go there anymore, but I still love camp. I belong to you.