I turned the corner to the entrance, the same road that I would ride that big yellow school bus as a camp counsellor. When you made that turn, if you were good, you knew exactly when to start. You would time it so when Bus 3 rounded the corner and entered the main camp you would be in full voice. All 40 kids screaming the camp song. It became a battle between buses. Kids would talk about that days winner around the flagpole.
“Bus 3 was the loudest!” one young boy would announce. His statement met with jeers from the Bus 6 line! “Bus 6 can’t be beat!” , they would reply! The battle would go on all summer.
I closed my eyes… I could hear the roar of the young campers as their excitement grew. This was my camp, their camp. It was a pride of exceptional levels!
I opened my eyes to look down the camp entrance… gone. The trees and grass and wild flowers over grew the once well travelled path. I trekked down the road, hoping to see some of my past, where I grew up. As I turned the corner into main camp… nothing. The kitchen, brownie lodge, south lodge, the directors cabin… the flagpole, gone. There wasn’t a trace. Like nothing ever existed. Decades of childhood memories had to be just that. Memories. I looked for anything to touch, to hold, to look at… all gone. It felt like I had dreamt all of those summer stories.
I walked down to the waterfront, the path so overgrown I got a little lost through the forest, the same woods that I could navigate in the pitch black without hesitation. I had to hike along the lake to find the waterfront area. I did get there, but it was nothing anymore, just a few feet of sand. Drift wood covered the once large beach area, weeds filled in the holes.
I closed my eyes again. I could hear splashing, laughing, people swimming, I could hear my counsellor telling us it was time to canoe, to learn a new stroke, the J, the C… quiet now, gone but not forgotten. As I walked up the old service road I finally found a piece of the past. A couple of old archery stands, fallen over covered in Moss. There was the proof. I was there and so were thousands of other kids over those 40 or so years. I became a good person there. My mom made a choice so many years ago. Send Stuart to camp. I went. It made me in part who I am today.
I heard the words of another camp director who retired earlier this year. He said, “I wanted to retire while I still loved what I did.”
I still do love it. I was missing something though… I regained it back at that old waterfront. The innocence, the fun, the purity of it all. I truly hope that the thousands of campers that have been part of YLCC over the last 15 years will have such strong warm memories so that when they close their eyes they can remember the good, the laughter and the friendships.
My old camp is gone, but it will never be forgotten. As I drove away, I thought of what it was, how it could disappear. Hard to understand. When I reached the top of the road I noticed an arrow nailed to a post. The arrow with the camps name on it was pointing to the direction of the camp… the camp that no longer exists. I stopped my car and got out. I looked up at the sign and jumped up to grab it. I pulled it off that pole and held it. I needed that sign more then the old camp did. The last physical proof that the camp ever existed is now gone. I will put it up at my camp. That way I can see it everyday, so I can remember why it is that I do what I do.
I still think that Bus 3 was the loudest…