When I was eight years old I went to summer camp for the first time. It was also my first time being away from my family for that long, I know I was more than a little homesick that week, and had many reassuring talks with my counselor, Heidi. However, over the course of that week I fell in love with the camp and for the next nearly 20 years it would become my home away from home. For almost a third of my life I spent a lot of my summers at camp, either as a camper, a “krew” member, a counselor and a volunteer (which was really just an excuse to hang out at camp). Camp was my favorite place in the world, and I couldn’t imagine my world without it. Many of my closest friends were made at camp.We’ve celebrated weddings and babies and losses together, and lived life together.
As so often happens in life, time passed by and camp has changed. There is now a completely new staff working there and to them I’m just one of the many former staff members who have served at the camp over the years. The camp itself is growing and changing and the cabins my generation of staff and campers grew up with have been torn down to make way for new recreational areas. I am not fond of change to begin with, but this one in particular is hard for me as it feels like they have torn down an important piece of my youth.
For my birthday this year my best friend donated money to the camp so that I could go up and choose a board from a cabin to keep as a souvenir of the camp I remember. This afternoon I drove up to camp, a trip I could make in my sleep, to pick out my cabin boards. As I arrived at what has been known as “Cabin Row” since the camp was built more than 60 years ago I was greeted by one of the saddest sights I could have imagined. All but two of the cabins were already torn down. Only cabins 1 and 6 remained. Six will be left standing as a memorial of the old cabins, Cabin 1 will be torn down in the morning. I was grateful we chose this afternoon to go up to camp, as the boards I wanted were from cabin 1. That was the first cabin I had ever stayed in, as well as the first cabin in which I was an assistant counselor. Cabin 1 was always my favorite cabin and I have many fond memories there. It was like coming home when I stepped inside and read over the names there. I was delighted when I was able to easily find my name on the bunk I had slept in as a junior counselor, as well as our names from teen camp in 1999 and writing from our Camp Out Night Hike back in 1995, when we snuck into cabin 1 and wrote our names with glow-in-the-dark crayon.
I took my time wandering through the cabin, looking at the names of campers and staff over the years. Many names I recognized, most I did not. It is difficult to imagine that this was the last time I will set foot in that cabin ever again. I’m going to miss Cabin Row, but I have so many good memories of that place, late night talks, staff escapades, pranks, 7:45 am meetings at the rock circles … the cabins may be gone, but I have nearly 20 years worth of memories that can’t be taken away, and I am extremely thankful for each and every one of them. I won’t say there weren’t a number of tears shed this afternoon, but I’m choosing to focus on the good memories, instead of the loss I felt upon seeing most of cabin row torn down.
Growing up is hard. Saying goodbye to the people and places you loved is hard. I find it interesting that so soon after turning 30 I am forced to let go of one of the places that was so important who I have become today. I wonder what other unexpected surprises, good and bad, this year has in store for me.