nine – summer lovin’

Let’s talk about camp for a bit.

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Camp is home, really; a second home to almost all who pass through her gates, a welcome haven from the busy world, a place to put aside the strange obsessions of our social networking driven world.

This place is friendship, good food, a place of rest and activity and exhaustion and laughter and tears. This place means camaraderie in a sense I didn’t know existed until the end of my first summer here. It doesn’t mean perfection — every cabin and department has its issues, and there’s a reason the Health Hut exists. To me, though, it practically hums with a whisper of that old song: come in, come in — come in and shut the door.

Camp is late nights on patrol, glancing skyward in awe of the bright stars or glowing moon. It’s setting out foods and forks for food in the Grey and washing dishes afterwards. It’s a friend noticing you’re overwhelmed and bringing a bowl overflowing with fruit, yogurt, and granola to your table before you even arrive at breakfast because she knows you wouldn’t have time to get it yourself. It’s handwritten letters, a collection of envelopes speckled with stamps of all shapes and sizes. It’s concerts on the Pageant Court on Sunday afternoons, carnival celebrations that end in fireworks on Independence Day, more thunderstorms than you’ve ever seen in a single summer, seeing God work in ways you didn’t know existed, and mornings spent on the edge of your chair as you hope that today will be one of the Breakfast Club stories that you just adore: I can see Clearly now, Lorraine has gone, maybe, or Jose! Can you see?, or, of course, Hairspray: revives dead hair! adds permanent wave! 

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It’s quiet mornings on the dining hall porch with a steaming mug of cinnamon tea, late nights spent laughing in the Grey with fellow counselors over yummy snacks, rainy rest hours spent reading everything from Harry Potter to Little Bee to Donald Miller to Dorothy Sayers under the covers. This place is comfort: a place to take it easy while working hard; a place where you are simultaneously worn down to your very bones and yet more refreshed and loved and appreciated and somehow in your element than you ever thought possible.

People ask why I go back: why I spend summers in the mountains without technology instead of buffing up my resume for med school applications, instead of taking a job that pays far more than whatever my little camp salary is per hour if I bothered to do the math.

The truth of it is — I don’t want to do those things. At least, not primarily — yes, I want to beef up my resume for med school; yes, making more money would make buying textbooks much less of a hassle; and yes, I am aware that I can’t work at camp forever (however much my parents might worry that I don’t and however much I rather wish I could).

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The heart of the matter, really, is that life isn’t about money. It isn’t. My family’s never lived like it is, and I certainly don’t intend to start that on my own. We’ve always been about experience over stuff. A trip to Seattle or Maine for vacation, attending a U2 concert together — experience-based memories, not material possessions.

Camp is like that: it’s about the experience and the people, not the money or the time. I don’t work at camp for the money; I work at camp because I love what it stands for and the girls I get to know and the few I even get to teach about my own passions in life — sign language and Deaf culture, backstage theatre tricks and set design, how to make cookies and pizza and smoothies. I put everything I have on the line for however long I’m there, and tired as I always am at the end?

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I never, ever regret the choice.

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