Remember when summer camp meant driving to an entirely different state, sleeping in rustic cabins with screen windows, and doing all sorts of stuff you were never got to do at home, like eat insane amounts of candy and shoot real arrows? I do.
So, yesterday when I dropped off Kit-Kat and her friends at summer camp, I didn’t want to leave. It wasn’t because I was worried or would miss her. Nope, I just wanted to be 13 and going to camp again
Smoky Mountain Church Camp (SMCC) in Wears Valley, Tenn., was the first and only camp I ever attended. For three summers, it’s where I practiced being on my own and becoming my own person. As the oldest child in a large family, that was an important life lesson. Later, when my brother and sister came to SMCC, the three of us learned how to be friends as well as siblings and that lesson has lasted a lifetime.
Being in a big family was actually great preparation for camp life. A trumpet reverie woke everyone early each morning, just like my mother’s sing-song announcement of “It’s time to wake up” did at home. Powdered milk was a camp staple, just like at home. Fifteen minutes for cabin cleanup was no trouble for kids conditioned to speed clean an entire house in that same amount of time. No air conditioning and shared bathrooms were hardly privations for a girl used to the swelter of Georgia summers and a house with only one bathroom for a family of nine. Camp was practically paradise for kids like my siblings and me. There was a swimming pool, swinging bridge, night-time hikes through the hills, and a country store with Chewy Sweetarts and RC Colas for 50 cents.
At SMCC, I had my first crush (on a camp counselor named Chuck), learned to love the coolness of summer nights in the mountains, and made friends who became pen pals for years. I figured out how to budget my spending money. Every day, I tested my courage by crossing a 40-foot chasm on a swinging wooden bridge. I loved every minute of camp.
I’m a 43-year-old mother of six now, but the young camper I once was is still inside me. When I dropped off Kit-Kat yesterday, all I wanted to do was throw my sleeping bag on a top bunk by the screen window and start giggling like a middle school girl again.
But, camp isn’t about me anymore, so I tried to clear out as quickly as possible. My kid’s got some memories to make and some becoming of her own to do.