Summer Camp: Why my kids will be campers too

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By Lindsay Pinchuk, Founder + CEO, Bump Club and Beyond

Anyone who knows me knows that summer camp played and continues to play a huge role in my life.  In fact, “camper forever” is one of the few descriptors on my personal Instagram handle. Growing up I spent six summers as a camper at a camp in northern Michigan, and then when my summer camp closed, four summers as staff at a different camp in southern Michigan. Without summer camp, my kids wouldn’t exist as we know them today—this is where I met my husband.

I recognize and appreciate that the greatest gift my parents ever gave me was the privilege of summer camp.  (I am sure they recognize what a great investment it was too, as it led to their two amazing grandchildren.) Yesterday morning, with tears streaming down my face and excitement running through my every vein I was able to pass this legacy on to my children.   I put my oldest daughter on the bus to overnight camp for the first time.  Without admitting to any nerves, she gave us a quick hug and a wave before she walked up the bus steps and on to what I consider to be the ride of her life. She never looked back.  We now officially have a second generation camper at the greatest place on Earth—the place where my husband and I met.

Photo:  Specialty 1999 Trip, taken at Camp Kennedy in the UP.

Twenty-eight years ago, I myself threw my parents the peace sign and stepped on to the Blue Lakes bus, which took me to spend the summer in my personal Utopia.  I was away from home, unplugged, on my own, and with my closest friends in what I considered paradise, for the entire summer.  Even today if given the choice of anywhere I could go, I would choose “Camp Sea-Gull” over anywhere else in the world.

And now? Now I am officially a “camp mom.”   Today, I am sitting at Starbucks (trying with little success to work), hitting refresh like a maniac as I wait for the camp pictures to be posted online. While at the same time, I am fielding phone calls and texts from my husband who without fail has reached out every hour to ask, “Any news?”  All I can hope for is to catch just a glimpse of J smiling as one of my favorite places hopefully becomes hers too. (The pictures are now up and J is in none.)

At the bus yesterday morning I ran into many old friends from growing up—all who were also putting their kids on the summer camp bus. I saw an old friend who I myself met at camp twenty-five years ago. Her daughter and J are in the same cabin.  I also was fortunate enough to run into Robyn who is married to the Director of Camp. Funny enough, Robyn was my own head counselor during my first summer as a camper (talk about coming full circle.)

“Robyn Kaufman!” I shouted.

“Lindsay Spolan!” she yelled back.

“You look the same,” we said in near unison.

We immediately embraced in an all too familiar hug—even though I haven’t seen her in nearly thirty years.

But camp does that, camp is a connector.  Summer camp brings people together in the most special way possible.

    

Pictures from left: 1993 at Camp Sea-gull from the deck of the Loj; 1993 summer likely singing something inappropriate; 1992 cherry picking in Northern Michigan.  The mom of J’s bunkmate referred to above is on the bottom left and I am on the top right center. 

Sure, I did all the typical camp things at camp: I learned how to canoe, waterski and sail (really well), I took my first (of many) week long camping trips. I raided the kitchen, snuck out to boys camp with my bunkmates (while trying to avoid the scary night watchman), and cheered in the dining hall until I lost my voice.  I made thousands of beaded necklaces and lanyard bracelets—all of which covered my arms and legs for weeks when I came home. But these are just the things that you DO at camp. It’s what happens in between all of these activities— those are the experiences which make camp so special.

When I think back to camp, camp was where I learned to just BE.  With myself, with others, with nature.  Some of my most favorite memories from camp are simply hanging out on the porch, the cabin or the beach, laughing. Just last week I had breakfast with one of my oldest friends who was in town. As we reminisced, he said it best—camp was the place where “all the STUFF just DOESN’T MATTER.”

He’s right and that applies in today’s world more than ever.

    

Pictures from left:  Berman Staff 1998, Specialty Staff 1999, TSS 1996 at Foxfire

I have spent three weeks and endless hours getting J ready.  I made four Target runs alone in the final twenty-four hours before we left town.  It dawned on me the morning we left Chicago—despite my recent preparations, I have truly been waiting my entire adult life for this moment.

With tears streaming down my face I waved to her yesterday as she hung out the bus window.  Half of me was crying because I can’t help but wonder where time has gone.  I can’t believe we have reached this milestone, and I could not be more excited for her.  The other half of me was crying because I wish I could go too.

“Make new friends and memories to last a lifetime.”   These were the last words of my first letter as a “camp mom”— and they couldn’t ring more true.   My almost eight-year-old stepped on to the camp bus for the first time yesterday morning.  But what she doesn’t know is that this bus ride doesn’t end when she gets off this summer.  The bus ride to summer camp is one that stays with you your entire life.

      

Photos from left:  G8 summer 1993, trying to be serious at Ranger Lake; Foxfire 1997; Berman Girls 1997; Me and my husband the summer we met.

You can find more from Lindsay Pinchuk, our Founder + CEO on the BCBlog. You can also follow Lindsay on Instagram and Twitter.