Tuesday, July 3, 2018

One Last Gift

There is something about camp friends that is different from your everyday friends, the ones that you see on a daily basis for most of the year. If you've ever been to a sleep away summer camp, you know what I am talking about.

Maybe it's because you live and see one another for 24 hours a day for up to ten weeks. 

Or maybe it's because you are immersed in nature, a calming safe place that seems to clarify the mind. 

Or it could be because you need to cooperate and learn from one another. 

Whatever the reason, camp friends are just different. You can go years without talking and pick up right where you left off. The memories you shared are more vivid and don't seem as far away as the years indicate. 

I went to many camps as a kid. Day camps, sports camps, and sleep away camp. When I was 17, I started working at day camps as my summer job. And when I was in college, I worked at two different sleep away camps that have impacted my life greatly. 

Crystalaire (and later Camp Lookout) is an independently owned co-ed summer camp that helped me to come out of my shell and let me see my potential as a leader.  I gained so much from the experiences I had there and the people I met. Years later, I would meet my husband, for a second time, at Camp Lookout, ten days after my mother had passed away. If anything, I saw that as a sign from my mother. She always knew how important camp and nature were in my eyes. This was her last gift to me. 

The other camp that had a huge impact on me was Camp Arbutus Hayo-Went-Ha, which is located on the outskirts of Traverse City. This camp is an all girls trip camp run by all women. I enjoyed being part of the staff because I felt as though I were a strong role model for many girls. I loved showing them that confidence is built from within. 

As each summer came to a close, I would count down the days until next summer. After my first year of teaching, I went and worked at camp. That was my last summer as a staff member. It was just too much for me. I started the school year off exhausted, and I knew that I couldn't continue down that road. 

So I started taking my students to camp. Of the 21 years that I have taught, I have taken 19 classes to various camps ranging from three days to a week. Upon return to school after camp, the students view you differently. There is a closeness that wasn't there before you left. Camp just does that. 

This past Saturday we dropped my daughter off  at Camp Arbutus Hayo-Went-Ha for two weeks. This isn't her first experience with sleep away camp, but it is with this one and for this long. To say she was excited would be an understatement. 

Kate is a camp kid. She loves being outside and the independence of being on her own. She finds joy in the traditions of camp and the relationships that she builds with campers and counselors. She was quick to set up her bunk and make it her own. 

Although I miss her, I know she is in good hands. And I know that when she returns, she will have many stories to tell. About the activities, her experiences, and her new camp friends. 

Kate at Camp Arbutus Hayo-Went-Ha