To this day, when summer rolls around I miss all the good things about camp. There were a few bad things, and I purposely chose not to write about them in Memory Lake because for the most part they have fallen by wayside over the years. You may already know I was not an ideal camper. I had no friends among the staff or even the counselors. I kept to my friends, chose easy activities, and never won an award. It should have been no surprise when I did not get asked to come back as a counselor. Still, I was completely miserable my 17th summer at home. All my friends were Up North without me. We did not communicate after camp had ended, or for many years after. That took a while. I missed the cabins, the lake, and my friends, or so I thought. What I really missed, (and it took me many years to figure this out), was the ease of my faith and the peace it held over me while at camp. Once I got busy finding my faith away from camp, the pain considerably lessened. So now, even though camp has ended forever for me, my faith has not. I find it in all sunsets, not just the ones over Lake Michigan. I hear it in all birdsong, not just the whippoorwill. I feel it under all crescent moons, not just the ones outside my cabin screen. And I hold it close all year-long, not just in the summer. So, to all the young folks out there who are facing a spring that is leading to the pain of your first summer away from camp, I offer this excerpt from Memory Lake…
“This is my last year,” Maggie said. “My parents don’t know it yet,” she added, in response to our gasps of surprise. Her family provided active support to the camp. We assumed she’d return year after year like the rest of them.
“Me too,” my sister agreed. “I’m done.”
If it had been any other time, Susan’s conviction would have caused me to hyperventilate. Instead, I accepted it. “They probably won’t ask me back as a counselor,” I fished, peering askance at Linda, supposing she would know.
“You don’t need to come back,” Linda stated with factual ease. “There are so many wonderful things you’ve never done, places you’ve never been. I may not see the lake again for many, many years.”
We held a respectful silence, facing the surf and the horizon. I wondered if the same would hold true for me. “Most people have a place where they feel the Lord dwells,” Linda continued. “This will always be mine. And, I will carry it here.” She pressed a hand against her chest. “Decide what you want out of life, speak the words, and then let it happen. Creation happens by letting,” Linda said.
“That’s right,” Maggie agreed. “Let there be light’.”
“Oh, yeah,” I whispered. By ‘letting’ myself be different, I had found the strength to break away from my friends. At the beginning of every summer I had plopped down on my cot and sensed camp’s fleeting existence in my life. Now I recognized its lasting presence. These time-outs from the distractions of home had helped me formulate who I wanted to be. Though still fuzzy and out of focus, the view had just grown clearer, and my faith in having the right tools, for me, had just grown stronger. I only needed to enter the world and learn to use them in a productive manner. Let my friends return as counselors, but I would move on.”
Welcome to adulthood! 😉