Why we keep coming back…

Every once in a while I get the chance to do something I haven’t gotten to do in a very long time at Surprise Lake Camp, and that thing helps to remind me why I return year after year.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my camp career began ten years ago.  In my ten years, my primary roles have been working with the oldest kids in camp.  I worked with the upper teen girls who were Merrylane at the time, I worked with Work Program, and this summer I’m working with the 16 and 17 year old staff.  While I have worn several other hats, my main camp jobs haven’t afforded me the opportunity to expose kids to camp for the very first time.  Much of what I’ve done here has been in an effort to create a novel experience for campers who have been here forever.

Today, though, I had the chance to introduce two boys to my favorite place in the world.  These boys were just visiting camp for a few hours and had never been here before.  They were eager to get started as soon as they got out of the car.  Both of them had been to camps before, but never anything like ours.  We walked over to Teenside, and both of them swam their 20 laps.  Then Harry, our Administrative Director, Waterfront guru, and jack-of-all-trades, took them out on the stand up paddle boards.  Then they went on the Teenside aqua jump.  At the end of their waterfront morning both of them were so excited at their accomplishments – swimming 20 laps, standing up on the paddle boards, learning how to paddle on one side.  These achievements – the likes of which that after ten years I sometimes take for granted – contributed to these two kids having a wonderful, magical day.

Their feelings of accomplishment, their excitement at experiencing some of these activities for the first time – these are things I don’t get to see much any more.  While camp is never mundane, while every day here is different, it’s nice to be reminded of the little things – the sense of pride and independence at mastering a skill or trying something new, the first dip in the lake, the moment of realizing you’ve pushed yourself farther than you thought you could – that really make camp such a special place.

The boys I spent time with this morning joined a Mountainview and an Idyllwood group for lunch today.  They already felt like my kids after just a couple of hours, and I found myself hovering – flitting from one dining hall to the other to check up on them.  They were fine.  They fit in immediately.  They sang songs with their table mates.  They got to know the counselors they were paired with.  They cheered on staff pudding-eating-contests.  Looking at them, you wouldn’t have known they hadn’t been here since June.  That’s the other magic of camp – it becomes a home for those of us who are here in a moment.  For me that feeling will undoubtedly last for the rest of my life.  While that’s unlikely to be the case for the two kids I met today, I’d like to hope that this is a day that will stand out in their memories for a long time to come.


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