Tuesday, May 28, 2019

That Magical Place

Dear 2019 Camp Arbutus Hayo-Went-Ha Staff,

I grew up going to various day and sleep away camps. It was one of the only places during my youth that I felt I belonged. When I went away to college, I found myself working at Camp Arbutus Hayo-Went-Ha during the summers because I loved being outdoors, and I loved the impact that I had on the campers. I even worked at camp after my first year of teaching but couldn't go back the following summer because I was too exhausted when I started the school year. It wasn't fair to my new class of students.

I missed being at camp so much that I started bringing my students up there. For 19 years, I gained the trust of the parents in my classroom to allow me to take their children three plus hours away for three to five days. And here is what happened. The kids in my classroom that struggled were shining stars at camp. Those days at camp were exhausting but my students got to experience something they probably would never be able to: the magic of camp.

There is something about camp that only camp friends can understand. There is a closeness and bond that is unbreakable, and it doesn't matter if you are there for one summer or ten. You will grow in ways you never thought possible. You will become more independent, self sufficient, mothering, and creative. You will learn how to really talk and listen to kids. As much as this summer is about you growing as a person, it is also about helping your campers grow too.

Some of these girls are away at camp for the first time. Most by choice and some not. It is your job to build a sense of community and closeness in your cabin. That is most effectively done by building relationships with your campers. You will have campers that you gel with right away and others that might drive you a little nuts. You need to look past that and find something that bonds you two together. These girls have one chance at childhood and you are a big part in it. EVERYTHING about camp will leave a lasting impression on them. Make it good. Make it positive.

My daughter, Kate's first year at girls camp was during the summer of 2018. She was familiar with the grounds and cabins because we had attended a few mother-daughter weekends together over the years. She went to camp knowing no one and left with tradition and memories that she has spent the last school year talking about. She has an entire shelf of just "camp clothes," has started making lists of things she needs to remember to bring, and is anxiously waiting to meet up with her friends from last summer and the older girls that befriended her. She continues to sing songs and tell anyone who will listen about Super Saturday, the food fight, casino night, and the fourth of July.

Kate is outgoing and is a camp girl. She adapts to pretty much any situation and tends to go with the flow. She can be the messiest girl in the cabin or organize a cleaning party. She is inclusive but shy. .She is ten and is already starting to talk about the extended trip to Alaska. Here is what I know.  Kate LOVES camp because of the tradition, activities, and you, the counselors.

You will be exhausted. You are mother hen to a full cabin of girls. Take care of yourself. On your day off, rest. Take it easy. Recharge. Because although this summer is about you, it is also about them. The young girls that leave their families for two to four weeks and for some more. Camp is a magical place. And if you don't know that already, you will. Soak it all in. Learn. Grow. But most importantly, be a role model for a young girl. This is one reason why I send Kate to camp. She needs to see that women are strong, can be in leadership positions, and are capable of going through life truly happy with who they are.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A Letter to My Mother

I have been thinking a lot about something Prince Harry said recently after the birth of his son. He said, "Missing a mother is like missing some type of security." As this Mother's Day comes to a close, those words remind me that mothers are the glue that hold a family together. And when you have lost your own mother, no matter the age, a part of you is and will always be missing. So in honor of my mother today, the 20th Mother's Day without her, I have written her a letter. It is found below.

Dear Mom,

You never knew this but six months before you passed away I went to see a lady who read my star chart from the night I was born. She had some interesting things to say, and I believe she had a bit of psychic ability. She told me that someone very close to me was sick and that she wasn't sure she was going to make it to Mother's Day. But if she did, then she would pull through the month of May and pass away sometime during the summer months.

It was the day before Mother's Day of 1998. Heather, Dad, and I were at the hospital. You didn't look well. All of your energy was drained from your face and eyes. You were saying your good-byes; I was for sure that this was it. I had prepared myself for what was to come. Waiting for a phone call that night. But one never came. The next day Heather and I went back to the hospital because Dad had stayed the night. We went to your room and you were no where to be found. All of your stuff was in its place but not you. We inquired about your whereabouts and one of the nurses said you were walking around with Dad. Heather and I searched the halls for you, eventually finding  you talking to another patient. I looked at you and knew. Knew that we had been given more time with our beautiful mother. You were in full spirits, the energetic mother I always knew. You said you woke up feeling great. We spent Mother's Day with you in the hospital. I don't remember what we did or talked about. I just remember leaving feeling grateful that I had one more day with you.

The call came late on June 5, 1998. I was at my apartment already in bed because I had to teach the next day. I was finishing up my first year of teaching down in Detroit. The school year was a week from from being done, and I was not around to see the end. There were more important things to tend to. I found comfort in knowing that your dad, mom, and sister came to get you as you took your last breath. You were always a believer in spirits and the afterlife. And this belief brought you peace as you moved on to the next chapter of your life.

Within two weeks of your funeral, I went to work at summer camp. It was there that I met John, and I know you had a hand in that. Do you remember the note you left my sisters and I? The one where you told us how you saw us in your eyes? I still have it. And I find it only fitting that you saw me as your quiet girl who loved the outdoors. You saw me for who I was and never wanted to change me. And that boy you sent me. We were married five years later.

As I get closer to the age of your passing, I find myself remembering more. I remember all the things you did for the three girls you raised. The countless hours of driving us to this practice or that game. Providing us with opportunities to pursue our interests. Trusting me as a 16 year old to use your car. Showing me how to sew and allowing me to travel to another country alone when I was 18. Putting up with my crazy ideas knowing it wasn't right for me but letting me figure that out on my own. Making me call you every night as I traveled across the country alone by u-haul.

Above all you were a mother. One who knew when to let her girls go but always worried about them. You were the glue that held us together. I only hope that I am the type of mother to my own kids that you were to us. I miss you Mom. Every. Single. Day.

Love your middle child,