(Published on Kamaji’s Blog August 15, 2009 but worth putting it front-and-center again)

I woke abruptly, with a catch in my throat as I realized the immediacy of the day, both for myself and for her.

I have missed her. I am aching to put my arms around her after a month’s absence. I am so eager to hear her stories of archery and camping trips and Tribe Day and evening talent shows. And after a while, I know, she will drop back into her own-selfness, and I will lose the glimpse of Anne at camp.

But, this morning, I am feeling a lump in my own throat as I look at the clock and know they are loading the buses to leave camp. My own eyes are pricking as I consider the hugs, the last glances through the trees, the promises to write . . . Did it rain there last night, as it did here? Is the ground damp and earthy scented? Are the trees weeping raindrops onto the backs of weeping girls? Did anyone run down the steps to the lake, to breathe the morning mist and hear once more the kak-kak of the mergansers, perhaps the warbling of the loons? No doubt that beautiful, soft whispering of the lofty white pine branches is obscured this morning by gasping sobs and tearful laughter. How many girls look around, gulping it all in, distantly aware that it will never, ever be the same as it is today?

Girls will stay in touch; e-mails will be exchanged, letters will be sent, giddy reunions will take place. Campers and staff members will return another year. The jewel in the north woods will remain, preserved in hearts and memories through the winter. And then, next summer, the lodge, the Nutshell, the stone steps, the lake . . . all will be there. Small changes evolve, but camp will still be camp.

But it will never be the same as it is today, this month, this year. This precious moment, the one with the perfect synchronicity of cabin mates, tribe members, counselors, coincidence and weather will remain only in our remembering. In another month, another year, we will be older, we will view the world and each other . . . differently. We can never stand in exactly this wonderful place again.

I think kids get it as they say their goodbyes. One can, perhaps, survive just fine away from that friend who plays tetherball, without that counselor’s encouragement, without that play to rehearse. In a larger view, a picture broader than camp’s, these things may become less essential. But today, it is all here, all the fun, the challenge, the disappointment, the sweetness and wonder. It is all coalesced in a magical place and time, under the pines on a lake up north.

What we are saying farewell to is this moment, this month of magical moments, the amazing, exuberant serendipity of life at camp. Girls embrace counselors, clutch tightly to them as if to embed the feelings in their hearts. Moist-eyed and wistful faces watch the buses pull away through the tall pines. Some travelers will grow quiet as they make last looks, memorize the place, the faces, the feelings.

In a few hours, she’ll be home, back to the house and people she left a few weeks ago. In her soul, she carries a month of adventures. I want to hear them all. I want to know how her world has changed this month. I want to hear about canoeing blisters and gritty s’mores, windless sailing days and exhilarating performances. I want the details of every arrow gone astray, every toast at banquet, of Capture the Flag and Adventure Day. I want to hear all her triumphs and disappointments.

I’ll get a smattering. Some of it will be fun to tell, and she may or may not recreate for herself and for us the vividness, the immediacy and truth of each moment. I’ll hear a healthy dose of stories today, and tomorrow over lunch. And I crave that.

But, I’m guessing the most important stuff will seep out over the next weeks and months. A passing reference to the climbing wall, an off-hand remark about “. . . once, when I was on the Barnett . . .”, these will be the truly telling stories, the ones that ever-so-subtly and maddeningly gradually will show me what camp was about. It’ll be the stuff that comes out almost unconsciously. The things that have wormed their way into her outlook, that shape her perspective and influence her taste and choices. These are the thoughts and ideas that stay with her long after she’s left the magical place up north.

While these things that endure are, to my mind, the most precious part of her adventures at camp, they are also, paradoxically, what she is bidding farewell to this morning. Those poignant moments, the crystalline events that shape her new wisdom and understanding, these are ephemeral. The lessons and memories endure, but the process, the experience of acquiring the joy, the hurt, the hope, the wisdom and understanding is forever ensconced at Kamaji. It is those moments of enlightenment, whether conscious or not, those brilliant bits of Kamaji-flavored living that the girls say goodbye to this morning. The lessons, the memories, the sunburns and friendship bracelets all go home, but the lovely, luscious process of living and learning at camp stays at the end of the rainbow.

In a few hours, I’ll see her, my daughter will be home. I know she’ll be a little sad, a little disoriented, tired and dirty. I hope she’ll be a little bit happy to see us, to sleep in clean sheets and have plenty of hot water. I can’t wait to see her, to get my arms around her and to hold that brilliant rainbow tucked inside her.

Judy Welch Meisner
July 14, 2009
Kamaji Alumnae ’67-’69, ’71,’73
Kamaji Doctor ’01-’10
Kamaji Camper Parent ’08-’10

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