i was sent to 8 weeks of camp (at age 12.5) – really to be gone for the summer. i left on my parents anniversary every year (i used to joke that was my gift to them) and for 8 weeks i was the person i knew i was in my heart of hearts. while there were every type of girl around me – sporty, girly, hip, awkward, high-drama, low-drama – we were all a 180 girl family. no-one cared that i wasn’t the hippest kid around – my silliness and goofy smile and enthusiasm was my offering. i just remember feeling so much freedom that i thought my heart would soar out over lake champlain in vermont. were there hard times there? oh yes. when i came back, many years later for my first alumnae camp, i remember saying that my last year there was the best summer of my life and the worst summer of my life. i remember crying so hard i thought i would never be the same. all that teenage angst and trying to find a path to be oneself but also have any kind of society around you that both wants you and you want it. but there was no better place to be while needing to laugh, cry and be. i was safe there. safe to be myself – whoever *i* thought myself should be.
i have taken my daughter to alumnae camps since she was a year old (it occurs every other year and so i have gone to a few – though not all and not in a few years since i was diagnosed with breast cancer – tho i have been back during the course of her summers there.) so when she decided to go, i sat her down and told her that it was ok if this wasn’t ‘her’ place…she didn’t need to go for me. what i thought (and think) is special could be very different from what she needs. and, frankly, i was very sad to see her go. my parents were happy to see the back side of my head for 8 weeks and my husband and i both miss our daughter with an ache every day. she loved it. that’s an understatement. she understood it at it’s most essential basic level – this place was hers. it loved her. she loved it. she dreams of going back all year long and – according to friends who work there and who have been kind enough to let me know how she’s doing – makes dreams while she’s there.
it may seem a silly thing but i am so proud that i had something to ‘hand down’ to her. something that she found to treasure that meant so much to me also. it will serve her well.