Last week my family packed up our car and a spacious, rented U-Haul trailer and headed off for what is traditionally my favourite week of the year: camp! For four years I was a camper there, and for four years after that I worked as part of the summer staff, spending eleven sun-filled, enthusiastic and life-changing weeks there. Now, after 19 years, I still return for just one brief week each summer and get the chance to re-live part of my youth, but I get to have my family in tow making it just a little sweeter.
So with the SUV packed full of clothes, food and toys, and a trailer filled with bedding, bikes, wagons, a ride-on car and other assorted activities, we were off. Two very excited little girls, a dad with impeccable packing skills, a mum ready to go to one of her favourite places in the world, and a cabin awaiting our arrival.
Last summer at camp I had to deal with one of my biggest fears: mice. (You can read about the experience here in 'camp chronicles: mouse in the house'). Now, if you're all up to speed, I'm happy to report that the mouse didn't return this year (or he was sufficiently trapped in the walls of the cabin thanks to Cal's handyman skills), so I slept a little more soundly each night, with a sky full of bright stars above me, the fresh, northern Ontario air blowing through the cabin and the girls safely tucked in their bunks.
I'm told that she was right into the action, sitting up front with the counsellors (rather than the campers), offering a detailed introduction of herself, including telling her fellow campers about her dog who was staying "at my mum's mum's house", and participating happily in the session.
Happily, that is, until her coach mentioned that it was 7:30pm. The session runs each night from 6:30-8:30pm, but as soon as Lady M heard the announcement that it was 7:30pm she told everyone that she HAD to get back to the cabin, because that was her bedtime. She was very determined that she needed to get back, apparently abiding by her bedtime more than she every has before! With some creative problem solving from the awesome coach who convinced her for the next hour that it "wasn't QUITE 7:30pm", Lady M stayed until the end and danced her little heart out.
She was super happy after session, but after that decided not to go back. She never gave much of an explanation, but we finally learned on the last day of camp that the reason she didn't return to dance was because it was just too long! Granted, it did wipe her out for about 2 days, but she could've gone for 1/2 hour or 1 hour if we'd known. But that's ok - if she'd spent every session in dance she may not have had the opportunity to develop her new athletic love: badminton.
Badminton is another session option at camp the week we're there, and Lady M was very curious about the game, and desperately wanted to grab a racquet and birdie and learn to play. With a couple quick lessons from the wonderful badminton gurus, she was striking each birdie with conviction! By Thursday she was so in love with her new past-time that Cal had to take her into the Canadian Tire in town and get her her very own lovely teal badminton racquet and a tube of birdies. He talked her down from the $50 racquet, and I'm sure she slept with her new $10 one under her pillow for the remainder of the week. She woke up asking the play, and went to sleep dreaming about her place on the Olympic Team for the 2024 Summer Games.
Like her big sister, Little Lady A couldn't get enough of camp, and while she enjoyed a little bit of badminton herself, truthfully I think she just enjoyed the freedom...and all the toys that the U-Haul brought to camp. For the first time she was in control of the ride-on car, and she hit the pedal and drove all over the place in that little red jeep! When she wasn't driving the jeep she was riding her bike, pushing her dolls in the stroller or just simply running in the wide open fields. Really, what more can you ask for when you're two?!
When the day arrived to leave camp, both girls were rather vocal about not wanting to go, but the exhausting week made it hard for them to protest too much. Lady M keeps asking when we get to go back, keeps singing camp songs and is already making plans for next summer. And when we pulled in the driveway at home last Saturday night, Lady A re-buckled her seatbelt and said 'no - I go back to cabin!' Clearly she would've stayed a little longer too...
So I must admit, I love seeing my family up there enjoying the place that has always been so special to me. Getting to spend a week among amazing friends and people who we really see just once a year, but who are like extended family, is the best. And seeing the happiness in my kids with each new discovery they make confirms for me that we'll be going back year after year for a long time...