Twenty-eight years ago I spent my first summer at sleep-away camp. I will never forget that day. If I close my eyes I can still smell the pine needles that lined the sandy paths leading from one cabin to the next, down to the waterfront and over to the dining hall. I still can feel the heaviness in my heart as I saw my parents driving off, leaving my 10 year old self alone in front of my red cabin so ironically named Courageous. I can recall the deep breath as I turned away from their car and toward my eight new cabin mates and a summer filled with soon to be made memories.
My niece is at my old camp for the first time this summer. I find myself thinking of her constantly. Looking at my watch and imagining what she’s doing at that exact moment. As I make breakfast in the early morning, I wonder if she’s part of the cabin whose job it is to wake up the other cabins with a newly created song or if she’s covering her head with her pillow as another cabin sings her awake. While I put Luke down for a nap I think about her sitting on her bed during “siesta”. Maybe writing letters home or making friendship bracelets for her hopefully new lifelong friends. In the heat of the day, I hope she’s enjoying the steep slide into the lake, cooling herself off and trading lake water for shower water as I often did. AsI am putting my kids to bed I picture her at evening activity. Playing capture the flag with 60 other girls. Or participating in the camp wide Olympics. As the sun sets I think of her in her pajamas sitting around a candle on the floor of her cabin sharing her hopes, dreams and memories with her newly made young friends. And when I look into the dark night, I wonder if she’s whispering and giggling with the friend below her in her bunk. I remember the flickering flashlights on the ceiling of the cabin. The “Sssshhhh” from the exhausted kids who just want to go to sleep.
This past weekend I spent my days with my family at my parent’s cottage only miles away from the camp. The smells are the same there as I walk down to the lake by my parent’s house. The crisp, cool water on my skin brings me back all those years ago. Dirty feet, sandy bellies, walks in flip flops, towels flung around our necks, easy fun… all reminders of my childhood at camp. And as I looked at my kids little faces, enjoying the days at the lake, I fast forward to their days (hopefully) at camp. Away from home. Making these incredible memories that I’m sure I’ll never forget.
I never had the chance (or the desire) to enjoy sunRISE at camp but Luke and I did. And I will admit, it made awaking at 5:00 so worth it. Luke refused to believe it was the sun and kept yelling “Moom!” as he pointed to the bright circle in the sky.
We walked in pajamas down the path to the lake. Blanket at the ready. Noticing and enjoying the sounds of the prior night’s rain still dripping from the tree tops.
Our silliest faces brought tired yet hysterical giggles.
We found simple adventures.
Walking through the garden. Past Buddha.
Learning the names of colorful new flowers.
We ignored the rain. Playing outside stripped of clothes stuck to our skin
And enjoyed it from afar.
We were amazed by giant bubbles.
And in love with our Grampy.
We led the way to what we were familiar with.
And were cautious as we watched a new world wiz by.
We returned home spent.
Warmed by the sun and weekend long cuddles.
We welcomed our own beds.
Slept soundly past sun rise.
And I’m left recalling my memorable camp summers. Feeling almost like I relived a few days of what I loved most. Easy fun. Outdoor joys. New adventures. And I hope a few sparks of it will stick in my kids’ heads the same.