Tomorrow I will be back at summer camp. This year will be my 11th summer at this particular camp, 14th summer total at summer camp. Needless to say, summer camp has been a huge part of my life starting when I was just 8 years old.
Back then, I was a socially awkward kid when a rep for the local summer camp came to my school to tell us about the camp. I was immediately sold. At this point I wasn't much of an outdoorsy person. My family had just moved to northern Minnesota (right smack dab in the middle of the Superior National Forest) from southern Minnesota (right smack dab in the middle of a corn field). My outdoor experience consisted of a few family camping trips to a local camp ground and a trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota that ended when my Mom and I went to hotel because I got sick.
Getting sick was a staple of my childhood. I was a sick kid, always in and out of the clinic and hospital. So when I went to my parents to tell them I really, really wanted to go to summer camp I got these blank stares of amazement from them. I imagine the thoughts that ran through their heads were "Why would she want to spend a week in the woods?" and "I do not want to pay this much money only to have her come home sick a day later". And those were reasonable thoughts and I wouldn't have been surprised if they had said no. On the contrary, I was expecting it.
But they didn't. Instead they found a camp program that would work for me at this camp- a 3-day "intro to camp mini session". Three days, they figured, was just enough for me to get sick (both literally and figuratively) and want to come home.
I did get sick over those three days, but I didn't tell a soul because I was worried they'd send me home. Yes, I fell in love with camp at first site. Even thought this was 2 decades ago I still remember almost every detail from those three days at camp- from my counselors Heather and Dawn (who was from Sweden) to my cabin name (Balsam, not hard to remember as it is still there) and even the bath house (which was torn down years ago). I remember the games I played, I remember that I was afraid of the guns and didn't even want to go to the gun range. I remember that I really had to go to the bathroom one night and just stayed in my bed until I saw someone else get up to go to the bathroom because I was too afraid to walk there alone.
From the moment my parents showed up to get me after those three days at camp I was counting down the days until I could return. Two decades later, I still am.
That's summer camp. My socially awkward 8 year old self found a place she felt at home. I made friends, I learned new things, and I was able to challenge myself in ways I hadn't been able to before. My socially awkward 9 year old self faced the same challenges and reaped the same rewards. As did my 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 year old self. At 16 I became a counselor. And now my 28 year old self is still counting down the days until I can get to camp. That number is down to one and I am beyond anxious and excited. I cannot wait to be back at camp.
What amazes me more than anything is how little camp has changed in the past 20 years. It is still a wonderful haven for socially awkward kids to come and make friends and learn new things. It is still this magically place that almost doesn't seem like it could possibly exist when you walk away from it. Even though my friend and I spent all last summer talk about "summer camp in the 90s" really the only thing that has changed is the amount of nudity and cigarettes. Camp is still Camp.
So are you still trying to come up with ideas for your kids for this summer? Consider summer camp! As a camper I attended three camps and as a counselor/staff member I have worked at four. All of them have been fantastic experiences and places I would happily send my own children someday. In every corner of every state you can find a summer camp that would be perfect for your child. From traditional co-ed to single sex camps to sports camps to art camps to horseback riding camps to space camps. The possibilities are endless and amazing. The experience your child will have is even more incredible.