The next summer, I was thrilled to be back. And then the loneliness of the first night set in and I cried. Then by the next night, I had switched to a new cabin and was having fun again. There were so many things to love about camp. It was outdoors, which I enjoyed. We got to ride horses and learn about animals, practice shooting guns and do obstacles courses. We played silly card games and cooked by the campfire.
Most of all, I had a chance to be someone I wasn't at home. I was cool. The skills I had at camp were valued in a way that weren't at middle school. Plus, I didn't have the baggage of kids who had known me since I was born. I had a chance to start new and I liked that.I went as a camper for the next six years, eventually becoming a counselor in training and then a counselor. I loved it. I learned a lot of leadership skills out there and that boosted my confidence immensely.
Last weekend, we organized a bit of a camp reunion down at the Y.O. Ranch. It was a multigenerational thing as the 35 or so of us overlapped at the same place but didn't necessarily all go to camp at the same time. We even had a fair number of counselors show - including two from Connecticut and one from Georgia. It was amazing to me to realize that so many of us had the same reaction to camp, especially this camp, that 20 years later we would travel hundreds and, for a few, thousands of miles to see it again. To see the place that meant so much to us and contributed so much to our formidable years, was really something.
It was also sad to see the camp has deteriorated over the years and has changed its focus. It's become more of a hunting camp than an outdoor adventure camp. Plus, insurance regulations have changed and a lot of what we did back then wouldn't fly today (which, frankly, I'm fine with.) As such, I'm not sure it would be a good place for my kids. That's both sad and liberating. They should get to find their own place and not necessarily go to where I went and have to live with my memories.
I have talked to my friends about sending our kids to summer camp though. Things seem different though. When? Where? How long? And how much? I look at Andy now at age 7 and wonder when he'll be ready. Not this year, certainly, but 9? 12? Same sex? Coed? I so much enjoyed the whole experience that I'd love my kids to get to experience something like it.
|Here I am at age 10 learning to lasso. I think I look pretty good, actually. |