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day 67: where the nightingales are singing and the white moon beams*

April 9, 2011

A few days ago, a colleague and I were discussing our kids’ summer plans.  I mentioned that my sister and I had spent a month at a Texas girls’ camp every year from the time I was seven years old.

She raised her eyebrows at me.  “Wow.  Your parents didn’t like you very much, did they?” she said.  She was kidding, of course, and I laughed, but in my mind I responded with what I couldn’t speak out loud:  oh, lady, you have no idea how much they loved us.

Summer camp, just one of a universe of gifts given to me by my parents, is as significant a part of my history as leaving home for college or getting married at twenty-five.  Camp is where I grew up.  Even after a childhood spent in Sunday school, I found God by the Guadalupe River, by the spitting campfire.  At summer camp, I rode and fell off horses.  I made my bed with hospital corners and memorized proper table manners.  I danced with a boy and shot a rifle for the first time.  I learned a songbook full of tunes my parents didn’t know, and I discovered a self that existed beyond the confines of my protective nuclear family.

I can only imagine the sacrifices, financial and otherwise, that my parents made to send two girls to a month of camp every summer for — in my case — ten years.  For this and so many other gifts they heaped on my lap, I am boundlessly thankful.

After my freshman year in college, I returned to my summer camp to work as a counselor.  I’d spun wildly through an exhausting first year at school, unsure what I wanted to study and unclear about who I wanted to be.  I arrived unmoored.  Returning to camp — as it turned out — meant coming home to a place where I’d always felt proud of myself.

That summer of 1993, spent teaching little girls to swim in the same river where I’d learned, shifted my perspective.  I shudder to think where I might be today if I’d chosen to waitress at Chili’s or fold t-shirts at the Gap instead.  Rather, August found me tanned and clear-headed, reminded by the hills and the songs I knew by heart that I was — that I had always been — worthy and filled with promise.

My boys will go to camp.  I know that, like my parents, we will do what we must to give our boys those star-canopied nights, river rocks, mosquito bites, rituals, table manners, dances, mentors, and campfires.

For so many families, an experience like mine is an implausible hope.  My gift on Day 67 was a donation to a “campership” fund at my summer camp, an endowment that provides this magical adventure to a child who would otherwise never know it.  Truly, I couldn’t pin a price on what I gained from camp, but I know camp has to put price on its tuition.  I hope my little bit helps.

I hope, too, that today finds you reminiscing about star-filled skies and campfire songs.  Thank you so much for showing up.

* the title of this post is taken from lyrics to There’s A Long, Long Trail A-Winding by Stoddard King and Zo Elliott.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Peggy permalink
    April 9, 2011 6:26 pm

    This was great–if you don’t send it to Jane then I just might. I think every former camper and camp parent would love to read it!

  2. Tracy permalink
    April 10, 2011 9:58 pm

    Only, your boys will be singing “Hail to that Campfire Lighter, Hail to that Longhorn Boy; Hail, Hail to all those campers, Campers of the Day!”

    Thank you for reminding me how significant camp was to me. The world it opened for me, the friends I made, the love and acceptance I felt, but, most of all, The Blob…

  3. Lauren Fraser Nutting permalink
    May 10, 2011 10:31 am

    Loved this! I saw Jane’s post and headed over for the read – you hit the nail on the head, Anne. We all were SO lucky to have had that experience. Thank you for sharing!

    • May 10, 2011 3:42 pm

      Hi Lauren! Thank you so much for your sweet comment. We really were lucky, weren’t we?

  4. May 10, 2011 2:51 pm

    This gave me goosebumps and made me miss being a camper and my campers! SO wonderful! Thanks so much!

    • May 10, 2011 3:44 pm

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I am so grateful for my camping days, too! 🙂

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