As I was searching through my computer the other night, I came across an old essay. Two years ago I wrote this essay as a tribute to my days at Camp Wright. Well, in reality it was for a creative writing assignment about my favorite place, but you get the point. Today, I sit at my bright orange desk – the same one I have had since the 3rd grade – and contemplate the meaning of this essay written approximately 730 days ago.
Oh, how much has changed since then. I look back on this essay with bittersweet nostalgia as my days of camp have officially come to an end – but this time it’s both as a camper and as a counselor. For the past nine summers, camp has been my life. For the first seven it was Camp Wright, and for the last two it was the YMCA as a camp counselor. I cannot remember a summer without camp – and yet, here I am. My first summer away from what I claim to be my favorite place in the world.
It seems that I am at a point in my life when many things are changing and I am seeing many “lasts.” In the past year, I’ve said goodbye to my high school, my childhood friends, and even my family as I set sail for the tumultuous seas of college. However, I did not expect more final moments to follow that earth-shattering somersault-like experience we refer to as “going to college.”
What I’ve realized is that with every year, month, and even week of my life something is going to change. It may be something as meaningless as my favorite food or something more personal like saying goodbye to a lifelong love (camp).
However, each time a piece of my life exits, an even greater opportunity arrives. Every “last” leads to a more spectacular “first”. When I decided I no longer liked Life cereal, I met my new best friend: Special K Fruit and Yogurt (trust me anyone who knows me understands this great epiphany). On a deeper level, my final departure from camp has given me the chance to explore the wedding world – a universe that I have dreamed about since I was 5 years old.
As I said in this essay written in 2013, camp will always be a part of me. I will never forget the people I met over those nine fabulous summers. I will never stop missing the endless hugs I received from tired, hungry campers at the end of a particularly hot summer day. And I will certainly never lose the memories made during the best moments of my life.
With an entire summer still ahead of me, I brace myself for more changes. I accept that all will not be the same when August ends. Yet I look at these next three months with nothing but excitement. I let my whole self fill with anticipation for the adventurous future. And who knows, maybe my first summer without camp will prove to be my absolute best.
Here’s to many more “lasts” and an abundance of “firsts.”
P.S. Here is the essay for anyone who wants to read it (WARNING: it’s slightly wordy and dramatic):
“Seven weeks – that’s it. Forty-nine days, forty-two nights. For seven consecutive summers, I spent one week at Camp Wright. One week. If time was measured by lasting impressions, those weeks would seem like a lifetime. From the age of nine to fifteen my summers were determined by the name of the cabin I stayed in, rather than the year. Age nine, Nanticoke. Age ten, Miles. Age eleven, Sudlersville. Age twelve, Sudlersville – again. Age thirteen, Lenape. Age fourteen, Salisbury. Age fifteen, Decourcy Thom. I seem to have forgotten the other nine weeks of those seven summers. Perhaps it’s because all I want to think about is Camp Wright. Perhaps I want the memories of my favorite place to linger in my mind forever.
I see camp in colors. Red T-shirts. Orange bonfires. Yellow sunshine. Green kayaks. Blue water. Purple sunsets. Every second is a color, and each experience is a rainbow. To choose my favorite would be impossible. It’s the combination of those forty-nine days. It’s the little moments and random details that seemed irrelevant at the time that I find rushing back into my mind and mentally returning me to 400 Camp Wright Lane.
Brookings Hall. The overwhelming voices of over two hundred campers and counselors act as the sweet melody to my meal. The questionable smells of the SYSCO camp food are as comforting to me as the delightful scent of Thanksgiving dinner. The stained red tablecloths are just as appreciated as any fine linen. Brookings Hall is more than a mere camp mess hall; it is a place where campers squeeze together, thigh to thigh, and learn the value of sharing a meal with one another. We tell stories and we laugh, we come up with cheers and we sing. It is at each assigned table in that cherished mess hall – Nanticoke, Miles, Sudlersville, Lenape, Salisbury, and Decourcy – that my cabin mates and I became sisters.
The “Murphies.” Ironically, the dull, once thought of as repulsive, campus restrooms are the next to emerge in my mind. The peeling white paint and broken locks of the wooden stall doors now serve as nostalgic charm, constituting decorative accents that create a very casual atmosphere. For campers, late night trips to the Murphies are thought of as miniature adventures, even daring excursions. As we tiptoe sleepily through the wet, dewy grass and prance across the rocky gravel, we feel a sense of freedom. A dark, open night envelops us, yet our comforting sanctuary of musty stalls is visibly ahead. It is just me and one other girl. We are alone, yet surrounded. We are exposed, yet protected…
“Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Have you ever heard a song and instantly felt transported to a particular place, frozen in that moment in time? It is the last night of camp, and every camper and counselor squeezes into Clary Hall for a closing night service. On cue, all two hundred of us begin, “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…” Tears slide down the cheeks of kids whose lives have been changed forever. It is almost time to say goodbye – almost time to depart from our Camp Wright family. Our week here is over. Our time here is done.
I look around, and I see colors. Red cheeks. Orange laughter. Yellow delight. Green serenity. Blue tears. Purple hearts. It is all an emotional blur. The red and the green mix, the orange and the blue blend, the purple and the yellow merge. I am mentally thrown out of Clary Hall, back into a brown “life-without-camp” reality. One week. That is all it takes. One week to shape a child’s life. There is a part of me that will always be a camper, but this summer I will embrace another role. Jordan DeTar: Camp Counselor.
It is time to experience the rainbow from a different perspective. Let the magic begin.
Jordan DeTar, 2013