Life is complicated. The carousel of time often feels like a gerbil’s exercise wheel.
Now that we are adults, we are mostly surrounded by colleagues, other parents, strangers (and just plain strange people), and family. But not friends. (And while colleagues, life partners and family can be friends, it isn’t ever simple.) And, while we may love our lives, our families and our work, “carefree” does not describe any activity that comes to mind.
I think we all go through periods when our self-esteem and our souls feel depleted. If you are lucky, there is a special place you can go (either in your mind or with your body) for solace, resolve and validation. And, if you are really, really, lucky, this place is there even if you forget about it for decades.
I am one of these really, really, lucky people. This weekend, 49 similarly blessed women and I returned to Camp Wingate (and still others were carried to Yarmouth in our hearts and memories).
Once I drove past the camp sign, I was transported to another place and time, where the days were about friendship, nature and self-discovery.
No one could pretend that 30 or more years had not passed and no one tried (ok, I lunged for a ball on the tennis court that will put me in traction, but I digress).
We came to see each other and breathe in the memories of summers as young girls and blossoming women. And to visit our special place, where we could do anything and be anything.
It is amazing how good the air smelled (still). How gross the bathrooms are (still). How thin the mattresses are (still). How stiff we were in the mornings (now, not then). How early we wanted to go to sleep (wow, full circle, huh?) but powered through to maximize time with each other. How the tennis courts got bigger (ok, we just can’t run down those balls any more) and Elisha’s Pond got smaller (“lake” was never really an appropriate word). How wonderful to catch up while making friendship bracelets in the art studio or playing tennis with wood racquets.
And the comfort that still, among the many unanswered, and perhaps unanswerable, mysteries of the universe, are:
- How did Pearl know and remember every bad (and good) thing each of us did each summer?
- What were we thinking when we used to walk on the rail road tracks to L’il Peach to buy candy? It was an active train route!!!
- How did Pearl survive our childhoods? How did we?
- And why did she keep letting us come back?
But wait, there are a few more: Where else in the world could I be considered part of an awesome DJ trio for compiling and playing summer pop songs of the 1960s-80s? Where else could I dance with childlike abandon with my childhood friends and without regard to any rhythmic sequence? Where else could 40-, 50- and 60-year olds (promise me no one was in her 30s) could have endless hours of fun singing these songs into hair brushes and flashlights and strumming on tennis racquets?
Wingate helped lay the foundations that made us strong, kind, purposeful people. At campfire, even the words to the Circle Game or Anticipation weren’t so scary because here we were, decades later, standing with the friends of our youth and feeling enveloped by love, and realizing that the goodbyes said decades ago don’t always have to be permanent.
My spirit is revived, my mind is peaceful, my soul is nourished and I left an even bigger piece of my heart at Camp Wingate.