At the end of this past August, after seven summers of growth and memories, I was less than happy about the idea of leaving. Settling into the alternate universe of laughter and companionship -not to mention the notable absence of parents – only to be torn away and thrust back into the hectic lifestyle of the school year was not ideal. I had spent most of the summer hoping the day would never come. Unfortunately, the day arrived and all at once I was in the car heading down the street which had once led me to my second home, and was now tearing me away from it. Gazing into the rearview mirror at the entrance reminded me of the first time I’d driven down that very street- heading towards the gate, instead of away from it.
As a nine year old who had inherited the family heirloom of independence, which had been passed down through generations of women in my family, I had chosen Runoia myself. I was excited. My search for independence was temporarily fulfilled with the thrill of being away from home, and each summer, in an environment that encouraged individuality, I found more ways to become myself. During my second summer as a camper, I was horrified to hear that because of its weakened state, campers were no longer allowed to sit on the branches of the apple tree.
As this was an ancient artifact that I had become especially fond of, a friend and I promptly funneled our disappointment into a farewell poem called Ode to Apple Tree, which we read to the entire camp and still remains in the 2009 log.
This incident is only one example of how Runoia transcended its promise of exposing me to new people and skills, and went on to provide me with opportunities to express and improve the parts of me that already existed. Whether or not your child has the same sense of independence I had upon arrival, they will certainly gain more of it throughout their summers away from home.
Camp is a place for growth and while many people remember it as a place of newness -new skills, new friends, new foods- it is important to remember that the camp experience is also about the qualities we already possess.
The deeper benefit of being exposed to camp is that through these new experiences, I was allowed to sharpen and exercise the skills I already had. And so, in August, while I left camp unwillingly, I left empowered.
Anna is a graduate of the Camp Runoia Counselor-in-Training (CIT) program and spent her summers growing up at Camp Runoia.