At this time of year, with summer camp only a few short days away, I always find myself reflecting upon my own experiences at camp. I started my camping career at the very young age of 2 years old. One could say that I was very young to be a camper, but with my older sister and cousin to watch over me, I boarded the yellow school bus which took me to day camp every morning. After 6 years of day camp I felt ready to conquer the world of sleep-away camp. My older sister had started going to sleep-away camp and I wanted to follow in her foot-steps.
So, the summer after I finished the third grade, knowing NO ONE (except for my sister), I hopped onto yet another yellow school bus which took me off to sleep-away camp for 4 very long weeks.
I can honestly say that the first summer that I spent away from home was less than perfect. I was homesick, very homesick, and did not receive a great deal of support and comfort from the adults who were supposed to take care of me. I remember having one friend in my cabin with whom I truly connected (and have recently re-connected with) and I remember counting the days until I could go home. But then, when I arrived home, I was eager and ready to sign up for the next summer, and I never looked back.
From there I spent 15 glorious summers at my favorite place on earth, CAMP.
I worked my way up from camper, to CIT, to counsellor, to section head and to program director. I learned so very much during those summers and even though I have lost touch with many of my camp friends, the memories of that time are deeply engraved in my mind.
Now, I find myself preparing my older daughter, Grace, for her 5th summer at sleep-away camp. I remember bringing her to visit camp the summer before she started going. I wanted her to see what camp really was – no hotel rooms, common showers, a large eating area….. It was very important for me to give her a true perspective of what camp was all about. About 5 minutes into our tour of camp my daughter turned to me and said: “I’ve seen enough Mommy, I want to go to this camp.” I can vividly recall the look of excitement and happiness on her face at that very moment – it is the same look of happiness that appears whenever she talks about camp and when I drop her off at the buses each summer on her first day of camp.
I am currently trying to get ready to pack and label all of the necessary things that Grace will be bringing to camp. My goal for this year was to be super organized, and while I didn’t achieve that goal, I know that all will get done before she leaves. I am excited for her to be able to spend her summer in a place where she feels safe, happy and connected.
I hope that she learns new skills, strengthens old friendships and forges new ones, gets caught in an awesome rainstorm which is followed by a beautiful rainbow, eats S’MORES by the campfire, develops a liking for a new food, gets thrown in the lake on her birthday (which is something that she looks forward to all year long), writes a few letters home, and just enjoys every moment of life at camp.
I hope that the counsellors at camp are Compassionate and Caring, Accepting and Aware, Mindful Mentors and Passionate, Patient and Playful. I hope that they find that one special thing in every single child who crosses their path this summer.
I guess the bottom line is that I feel so fortunate to be able to send my daughter to summer camp – these days it is a privilege to be able to do so.
Wishing every camper, counsellor, camp director and parent a very SAFE and HAPPY Summer!