As I write this, my husband and I are on our way to pick up the children at overnight camp – we are looking forward to the hugs, the ‘nuggles and the stories from the last two weeks. Looking through the photos this morning, we spotted this one of our daughter…
Looking over my shoulder, Steve (a man who never attended summer camp) simply said “camp is awesome.”
As someone who spent many a summer at overnight camp, I’m not sure he understands how right he is – and how insufficient that word is to truly explain the “awesomeness” that can be the overnight camp experience. Beyond the opportunity to try new activities (horseback riding, kayaking, leather crafts, candle making) and go a little crazy (my torch-wielding daughter being carried on an Adirondack chair), it can be a place a child can just “breath.”
Gone is the pressure of mom and dad telling them to do their homework, clean their room or catch up on their summer reading. Missing are the peers they’ve known since kindergarten, replaced by children who don’t know, and don’t care, about how they acted when they were 6, and are happy to know them as they are today. There are rules, and there are chores – probably more than we give them at home – but there are also loud adventures, quiet moments and a safe independence.
I can tell you from experience that all of these factors will combine to create memories our children will share well into their adulthood. Just this weekend my uncle, upon hearing the kids were at the same camp he attended as a child, regaled us with stories and asked us all about the camp today.
With the memories will also come a bit of wistful nostalgia for simpler times – When a bell told you it was time to wake up, go to meals, or go to your next activity. When having your face painted, or dressing like a pirate made absolute sense. When your “uniform” was a bathing suit, sandals and a pair of boxer shorts. And when songs of a repetitious nature regularly broke out spontaneously during mealtime (or anytime).
My years at overnight camp were a gift from my father, also a former camper, that I am thrilled to pass along to my children.
While I don’t envy them the pain that will come when their camp days are over – a pain I admit I still feel today – I know the joy they will feel reflecting back on these summer days.
Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons,
You can’t be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you’re thinking that
You’re leaving there too soon,
You’re leaving there too soon.
Sugar Mountain by Neil Young
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