Monday, May 11, 2009

The Lessons Taught by an Aunt and Uncle

A couple of weekends ago, my sister, her husband and I went back to summer camp. My sister and I had attended Kennolyn as campers, went through the Camper in Leadership Training program, and went on to be counselors and Directors ourselves. Camp was a life changing event. We learned to be self sufficient. We learned to be away from home for the first time, without family (other than each other). We learned to get in touch with nature, we grew meeting new people. At camp, and in being counselors, we learned lessons that have served us since, that have taught us about being leaders, about love, about friendship, and about living a good life.

Our Mom and Dad first sent me in 1985. I went away for two weeks to Hi-Camp, and had "the time of my life." We both attended, either as campers our counselors through college. My sister met her future husband to be at camp; he was part of a "Camp America" program, coming abroad from England to be a counselor with us. We met a lot of foreign staff, sang many awesome songs (from "Veggie Mite" to "Flower of Scotland").

Throughout our time at camp, the two owners and directors were an ever present force. Uncle Max and Aunt Marion started the camp after he returned from World War II. They had both been teachers, and their dream was to start a summer camp for children. The first summer, in addition to the campers, their nieces and nephews attended camp and it during that first summer that Uncle Max and Aunt Marion's titles were secured. And, it was a life time of loving and welcoming children to summer camp that they earned the role of Aunt and Uncle in the hearts of many.

Uncle Max and Aunt Marion had high standards. From the rules (girls hair had to be up until dinner, you had to have clean hands to get in for any meal, no visible tattoos, no smoking) to expectations, the bar was set very high for those of us who worked at Camp. We had one day off a week, and we got paid very little. Not only did we oversee a cabin, but we taught classes all day - things like archery, rifelry, ropes course, horseback riding.

While we complained and grumbled, we claimed it was like being in forced labor, we loved every minute of it. We were challenged. We had our hands full. We learned diplomacy, how to keep eight kids in line, how to sleep outside in the woods and cook over a fire. I am grateful for the lessons of those years, those wonderful summers.

Aunt Marion passed away in March, and we went up to attend the memorial. Uncle Max had passed away a couple of years ago. The place was packed with former counselors, Directors, campers. All of them there to sing the songs one more time, to remember the lives of two amazing people. And, as Andrew Townsend, a long time employee said "I expect that there was recently a great reunion in the afterlife. Of two long time sweethearts, rejoined. You know that there will be campfires, truths discussed and lives recounted over the dying embers of a campfire, the makings of foil stew, and lots children running around laughing, free and happy. And if that's not heaven, I don't know what is."

Looking back, here are a few classic photos of me during my time at Kennolyn:

My first summer, 1985. I'm second from the left. Imagine how surprised I was when this picture showed up on the cover of the camp yearbook!!

My first year as a counselor, 1990. I'm in the back row, third from the left. The kids in the front look strangely large, don't they?

My last summer, 1997 - back row, I'm the short one. This year I was the Counselor in Training Director. the blond girl in the row ahead of me is my sister!!

3 comments:

Liz said...

I wish I had been given the opportunity to go to summer camp. It always sounded so much fun! It sounds like it was such a great experience for you!

Rocksee said...

I miss summer camp! Great pics! Visiting from SITS!

soozank said...

gee...wish I'd known about the memorial..I loved Kennolyn when I was a kid and went there for 10 year until 1966.. Thanks for the memories.