family, history, identity, Jacob

same as it ever was

This summer Jacob spent two weeks at the summer camp I used to go to as a child. The first week was an overnight camp, which he approached with a positive attitude and only a little trepidation. At the end of the week he was tick-free and playing it cool, though his counselors tipped me off that he’d been a little homesick.

Jake, from the overnight session

This week, he’s attending a day camp, which is a little more his speed. He seems happy to be there and the weather so far has been beautiful.The staff has been so kind and generous and Jacob has nothing but pleasant things to say about them.

again, overnight session

Pulling into the camp driveway this summer (which is about 1/2 mile long, through a brief lovely stretch of Pine Barrens), I felt the same jolt of excitement I had as a child. The smells of the camp – the pine trees, the sugar sand, the cedar lakes – still trigger for me feelings of pleasure and excitement, but also of coming home. A couple years ago I walked the camps during the spring and was surprised by how well I remembered them, despite the more than 10 years that had passed. So much was new and exciting, but so much was the same, in a way that was comforting.

Altar in the chapel, c. 2007

I think that’s still true now; when I drive up to the dining hall, the front porch looks different and The Bowl (the small amphitheater in front of the hall) has been changed – but they are still there, still the same in many ways.

On Monday, I picked Jake up from his first day of day camp. On my way to check him out I ran into the camp director, Brent. Many years ago, Brent and I were in the Rangers program together. We did two canoe trips together as part of the program – one to the Delaware Water Gap and the other to the Shenandoah River (that same trip is where I met Jon the Artist) – and it was a blast. It seems fitting to me that Brent is now the camp director – even at 14 or 15 years old, he had a love for the camp that most people didn’t. When I saw him Monday, he was walking out of the dining hall, holding his daughter, an adorable girl with a chocolate-smeared mouth, and a steady gaze. And what do you say to someone after 15 or so years? There are so many things I wanted to say to him: what it means to me that my son is at this camp (and enjoying it); that everything looks beautiful; that he, Brent, looks happy; that his face is the same in the best possible way; what a comfort for me it is to return there and find this familiar face I remember so fondly. But of course, I was running late for pick up, and Brent was probably off to something work- or family-related, so we chatted for a brief second, mostly just “How are you?” “We’re good.”

And then we said goodbye.

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