Sunday, April 08, 2012

The little camper that shouldn't have been

I can hear the a collective groan from the counselors at camp when they saw my registration for my second summer. I was a terrible camper my first year. Camp was somehow not what I expected. I thought I was going to ride horses every day. I thought it would be different. I thought I wouldn't be scared to be gone for 19 days. But I was terrified. I spent the first 10 days crying to go home, I believe. My parents were called. Daily. Schedule adjustments were made. And somehow, by the middle of my second week, I began to really like camp. I gave up worrying and started having fun and learning. By the time my parents arrived, I stunned everyone by talking about next year.

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.

My third year. I think I had a fe-mullet. It wasn't pretty. These are the austere cabins. They look exactly the same today.

Here I am on the climbing and rappel tower circa 1987.


Here I am on the ropes course in 2012. I look just as good, right? I was sure a lot more scared, that's for certain.

1 comment:

  1. I guess it just depends on the kid and the camp. My girl went last summer for 10 days and loved and is going back again, and she's 8. Her camp BFF isn't going back because, as an entering 4th grader, she'd have to go for 23 days and isn't yet ready for the longer stay. I don't know if my son will be ready to go at 7, though, and that is fine. Everyone at their own pace, and all that.

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