This afternoon, I was doing some pre-winter organizing and came across my “camp box” in the basement. This box — full of letters from camp friends, letters that my mom saved from my camper days, special crafts, and the best childhood memories any girl could hope for — is literally busting at the seams. Over the course of 4 housing moves in the last 10 years, I’ve tossed old school memorabilia, clothes, and so much of the other “stuff” that accumulates over the course of a childhood. But this box has stayed with me. Each time I’ve packed my things, I’ve stumbled on this box and thought about how much fun it will be for my future children to sort through these memories when they’re about to embark on their own camping experiences. I still remember rainy days spent with my mom, reading through her old Runoia autograph books, singing from her song book, and hearing stories inspired by the pictures and notes that she keeps close to her heart.
My love of camp started young…possibly in utero. I was raised on camp songs and attempts to re-create the perfect congo bar. When I first read Harry Potter, I completely related to how he felt when he found out that he was going to Hogwarts, because that is exactly how I felt when I learned it was time for me to start camp. Camp was my Hogwarts. And, honestly, it still is. I’ve been to many camps during the last 20 years, and have worn many hats. I suppose there must be something in that box from every one of those camp experiences. But 18 months ago, I put on a new camp hat — that of a future camp parent.
I had a daughter. This little girl, full of spunk and sass and an independent spirit, has given me such a new perspective on the importance of camp. I can’t wait for Josie to go to camp (granted, right now going away for a weekend gives me angst, so there’s some growth on both our parts that needs to happen in the next 7 or 8 years). I can’t wait for her to live on her own in a cabin with friends, to learn new activities, to develop her leadership, communication, collaboration, problem solving skills. But most of all? I can’t wait for her to have counselors in her life. These young women, still developing their own beliefs and life paths, are truly what makes the camp world go ‘round. I can tell you first hand that 90% of the people I still, to this day (at 33 and 11/12 years old), want to be like when I grow up are my camp counselors. The exhilarating feeling when a former counselor likes my post about parenting — I feel so (possibly unreasonably) proud to know that they think I’m doing a good job!
A week or two ago, I was on social media and came across a conversation between two veteran Runoia counselors. They were talking about current events, and clearly both felt great passion about the subject. I’m not sure that I can even pinpoint what it was about their discussion — the respectful tones they used, their ability to truly “listen” to each other and respond in a way that honored the observations of the other, or just the fact that these intelligent, strong, thoughtful young women were empowered enough to share their views in a public forum — whatever the reason, this conversation brought tears to my eyes. The thought of my daughter one day developing relationships with role models just like these two incredible women…there is truly nothing greater I could ever wish for my girl.
As her mom, it is my responsibility to prepare Josie as best I can to face all of the good and bad that life throws her way. I cannot think of a better way to arm a young girl to tackle the world than to surround her with the strong, positive, spirited role models that she will find in her counselors at camp. So the box remains in the basement because one day it will be very fun to look through it with my daughter. But the memories? The hundreds of relationships that have endured? I keep them right with me. And I can’t wait for the day that my daughter will be able to go to camp and create her own.
Thanks Alumna, Jamie Cluchey, for being our guest blogger this week! If you would like to share your Runoia experiences, memories or writing, please go to our alumnae page: https://runoia.com/alumnae/about-crao/ and scroll to the bottom and click on the email to contact our editor, Aionur!