Camp Sick

This post for once has nothing to do with ovaries. I came from parents that really lived what it meant to be parents. We weren’t rich. My mom’s sterling silverware set from her wedding is incomplete because she sold off pieces to keep the lights on and the house warm when we lived in WV. They sacrificed on so many levels so that my sister and I could have not just what we needed, but also some luxuries that we wanted. I wanted to play the violin in 2nd grade, but we didn’t have the money to buy a $500 instrument—Instead of doing without, my mom struck a deal with the music store to make weekly/monthly payments until it was paid off. The store let us leave with the violin that day. I played through my teenage years, and several times since then, my mom has given me permission to sell that violin. I can’t. I won’t. It’s more than an instrument gathering dust in our guestroom closet. It’s a symbol of sacrifice. Along the same lines, my sister and I weren’t naturally blessed with good teeth–I even had crooked baby teeth. Again, on good faith and good reputation, my parents paid the orthodontist in payments for the 8 years combined my sister and I wore braces as kids so that we didn’t have to grow up without good teeth. It was more than just straight teeth. It too, a sacrifice made from love. They’re symbols of love and compromise your family makes so that a kid has the best chance at feeling normal and feeling like they belong. Each summer, they figured out a way to send me to sleep-away camp for a week. I will never know what they had to give up to make this possible—at the time they might not have realized just how much camp would mean to me. I continued to go for a week each summer (and in my teens longer sessions) until I outgrew the “camper” age. In college, it was like I felt a piece missing from my heart each summer that was only filled when I worked as a counselor in California and then another summer in Maine. Camp is where my heart is. If I never had to grow up, pay adult bills, confirm to the “normal” I think I’d still be working at a summer camp tucked away on a lake somewhere.
For those who never went to camp, you’re likely thinking I am crazy, but I will try to explain. Everything I needed to know in life, I did NOT learn in Kindergarten, I learned at camp. I learned to meet strangers and to be confident in myself. I learned its ok to sing if you’re not a good singer, to dance if you’re a bad dancer. I learned the importance of handwritten mail and care packages. Camp was my first lesson on roommates and shared space. I learned that rain doesn’t have to ruin afternoons…it can be calming and force you to rest in the comfort of a bunk in a tin roof cabin. The sun will come out again. As an adult (is it fair to call myself an adult when I was 18-20?) working at camp the lessons are different, but just as valuable. You forge friendships in 8 weeks that last a lifetime (I have friends from Maine that came to our wedding!). I learned dressing up in costumes is fun and totally acceptable. I learned that letting the petty stuff go even when it’s not easy makes life more pleasant in the end. I learned that money isn’t everything, but the experiences you could have on your days off were. I learned I had creativity inside I never knew existed. I learned that it’s possible to laugh until it hurts.

This time of year, camp always weighs heavy on my heart. Facebook continually lets us keep in touch, but is also a reminder that my former campers, the babies… are finishing their last years as campers and/or staff, and the older campers are now working adults living in the real world. For the small few that continued on with careers in camp life (owners, directors, etc.) I envy them as they pack their bags in early summer and prepare the camp for when the campers arrive! I’m forcing myself today to remember those lessons and how they apply to my current non-camp life.


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