from me to you


my teenage daughter goes to the same summer camp that i attended some 39 years ago.  i still wonder at the continuity of it all.  espcially since i have always tried to set a different path than i think i was expected to have.  but this amazing place has now been a girls’ camp for over 80 years and it remains a special and unusual place even in a large field of other people’s summer camp memories. 

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.



5 Responses to from me to you

  1. Lisa C. says:

    I’m so glad your lovely daughter has a place that’s all her own. And it’s even cooler that it is the very same place that you cherished.

  2. Carol says:

    I could have written this post myself. Only not as eloquently! The shared bond of camp, one that my daughter and I also share with my mother and numerous cousins, aunts, great-aunts, etc., is a bond unlike any I’ve ever known. I’m so glad that she loves it as much as you did and that you’re able to give her this incredible gift.

  3. Jeanne says:

    What a beautiful essay. Camp was that same place for me – the place of freedom. When I would try to explain it to others I often mentioned the feeling of being freed from a box. At home everyone had known me for years and was quite sure they knew exactly how I should be – but going away to camp meant I could just be me rather than the person everyone expected. Those weeks in Vermont (over 5 summers altogether) gave me the courage and confidence to be myself more completely each time I came home.

    I was one who cried most of the car ride home (a lovely 6 hours for my parents I am sure) – and the sadness was equal parts losing my friends and knowing that there was a box waiting for me at school. Each year I got braver about how more like myself I would be when I got home.

    Hard to explain to others – thanks for sharing and letting me know that others experienced it in a similar way to me.

    Perhaps my only disappointment in having a son is that I can’t pass along my camp experience — so now I hunt for friends’ daughters to point towards camp. No takers yet – but I am not done trying!

  4. What a wonderful story – and I’m glad she loves it as much as you do. It truly is a special place, isn’t it?!

  5. rebeany says:

    jeanne: your 2nd paragraph is so perfect. it was that way for me …tho i didn’t get brave enough until i left home.

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