It’s that time of year again when we remember fun times of taking daughter #2 to camp. I thought I would repost this from around this time last year.
Going to camp was as natural as figuring math, reading chapter books and practicing the piano during the school year. It was natural and better. I went as a student of the Tyler Public Schools and as a Camp Fire Girl. Then I went camping with friends during college years in Michigan. I loved looking forward to going, packing, being there and then remembering the trails, the breeze through the trees, the cabins, the activities and the watering holes. Many years later when I married, I discovered my husband had gone to camp and had had great experiences there, too.
When my daughter approached 10, I knew we had to send her to a camp soon or the opportune moment would pass her and us by. I chose three in the hill country of Texas. They sent me their information and once the three booklets had arrived I told Kendall that her dad and I really wanted her to try this. I asked her to read, study and review the information and then let us know which one appealed to her most. She picked one and we reserved a place for her that summer. I loved camp as a young adolescent. And as a parent I still was not disappointed. My husband and I loved attending the opening weekend activities, writing her during the weeks she was gone, preparing care packages, returning for parents weekend, and finally going back to pick her up.
As the years went by and those dreaded teen years approached, our daughter still chose to go back. The friendships she made were hers and hers alone for the summers. She didn’t have to compete with classmates, neighbors or the fellow dancers she was with throughout the school year. She learned about other girls with similar goals of going to college and making a difference one day. She learned about Dallas, San Antonio, Brownsville, Virginia, Mexico…all the places other camp mates came from. She made friends with the staff members and counselors who sincerely cared about her and cheered her on in her activities, joys and disappointments during the school year away from her beloved fork of the Guadalupe River. She connected with the river, the mesquite, the pitted limestone rock, the hot, dry air, “migas” for breakfast and her camp friends.
The cost of sending her was an investment. My dad used to say when you send your children away, they will learn to come home. Year after year during our daughter’s teen years she eagerly prepared to go to camp. When our sixteen year old daughter said she wanted to return to her camp, there was no question she should return. Her dad and I loved the return on many levels. She mastered archery and was already an accomplished swimmer. Swimming in the river made her expert.
We exchanged real mail. Letters, postcards and packages. We dropped her off on the appointed day and learned to arrive early so she could claim the bunk in the corner with a screened window at her head and one to her side for the hot afternoons and nights. I couldn’t wait to get home and start sending her mail. I found special postcards of Texas and others I had collected from my travels. I bought postage for postcards and stacked the cards in the front hallway so I could mail one a day visualizing she also, would receive one a day. Sometimes however (smiling) she didn’t receive any or she received two or three in one day. Our postal system is good but perhaps not as systematic as this mom had planned. One year she informed me “You know you can send me an e-mail. The front office will print it off and deliver it.” That was nice to know if I wanted her to hear some news asap, but not usually the case. I wanted her to feel the warm fuzzy of a handwritten letter. Once she announced, “I can’t read your cursive.” I nodded empathetically, but continued to write in cursive. I have never heard her lodge this complaint again…I trust and know she learned to read cursive. (Smiling broadly) In fact she comments today, thoroughly appalled, “So many students can’t read cursive.” Go figure.
Two weeks into camp my husband and I returned for camp shows. The girls wrote the script, set words to popular songs, hand manufactured sets and props, and put together costumes no trick or treater would ever wear. Families arrived early to get a good seat. It wasn’t tiered seating as in an amphitheater. It was level floor looking up to the stage. My husband took his spot along the wall to videotape the masterpiece and I was content to sit by a screened window in the sweltering heat. I know he had a better view as I had to crane my neck to view the production. They presented their skits and then local camp directors judged the winners. An hour or so afterwards the PA announced which skits had taken the honors. Squeals of pride and excitement resonated in the dark. We could hear “Congratulations”, “Good song”, “I didn’t know you could sing” or “Way to go dumkof, you dropped the ball” shouted across trails and to other cabins all in the blackness of night. We didn’t have to see the delighted faces, it resonated in their voices.
We left and returned again, to pick her up. By then, she looked forward to returning home to her own bed, her own shower, her technology and air conditioning at the end of our Texas summers. It’s that season again and my husband look forward to perhaps sending our grandson to a camp in the Texas Hill Country some day (with his mother’s permission) where time stands still and routines and rituals haven’t changed. A lot of lessons in self reliance, cultivating lifelong friends and learning to leave home and happily return home are learned. A bull’s eye in our book.