I feel so extremely lucky that my parents felt it was important to send me to overnight summer camp for 10 years of my life. Those who have had the opportunity to attend anysummer camp for even one summer can most certainly relate. And while it’s nearly impossible to put my emotions into words (even for a writer), I’m going to try because I want to catch this emotion in a jar, close the lid so tight and hope it lives forever.
Camp is the place I became the person I am today. It’s where I was given silent permission to find myself beyond my family unit. It’s the place where I made life-long friends that to this day remain some of the best people I’ve ever known.
This past weekend my camp held it’s 50-year reunion. It was the first of it’s kind being that past campers and staff were invited up to sleep in cabins, eat in the dining hall and canoe in the same lake. Children were invited up for afternoon activities but I, along with most of my friends, decided that we would leave our spouses and kids behind for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become bunkmates once again and live out the ultimate fantasy of being able to go back to camp again.
It turned out there were 9 of us from our age group that attended, many of whom I hadn’t seen in over a decade. Even though we’ve all aged (except for me of course), been through happy times and times of tremendous sadness nothing had changed. There we were sitting side by side on the lake dock at 3AM laughing so hard that we convinced ourselves we would most likely wake up with six-packs. 20 years has passed since we all sat on that dock together, but it literally felt like we hadn’t skipped a beat.
Yes we’ve changed, but not really. We’re all the same people who grew up together, talked about everything under the sun and moon, and (hardly) ever passed judgment on each other. These people were and still are my family. My camp was and will always be my home. I’m so glad and humbled that I was given the opportunity to remember that.
We talked about old memories and made new ones. We created arts and crafts, ate in the dining hall and attended Shabbat services. We skipped programs and we went for midnight walks around the lake. We caught up on how our parents are doing and we bragged about our kids. But most of all we laughed. And laughed. And laughed. And laughed.
It seemed like the past 20 years were all bottled up, aged to perfection and then opened for this past weekend. We were completely our old-new selves.
Driving down the dirt road on our way out of camp yesterday, I felt the same mixture of joy, sadness, satisfaction and longing that I used to feel all of those years ago. Of course I did, because why wouldn’t I? Even if there are hundreds of camps just like it, there is literally no place that could compare.
I want to say again how fortunate I am that my parents sent me to summer camp. I don’t know who I’d be today without it. And the first thing I said to my kids upon returning home? One day, you’re going to summer camp.