Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Off to Camp

       Just spent about 30 hours with a bunch of 11-13 year olds at an outdoor camp north of here. It was raining much of the time, but the infectious glee exhibited by these kids was hard to ignore. The noise level, piercing at times, could not be diminished as their seeming freedom from the daily school routine fed the collective din. They loved it. We canoed, ran through the forest playing survival games and worked in teams to solve problems. The affect of this camping experience cannot be measured as yet. This is the stuff of memories.
       I got thinking back about twenty years to when my own son was a young camper….

       When my son was eight, he begged to go to camp, so I enrolled him, almost unthinkingly, at a Pentecostal Camp on Vancouver Island. This resulted in us having to take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and drive north to the camp. I don't know what I was thinking. We didn't know anyone who was going to the camp, though my friend and pastor had stayed there in one of the few private cottages and vouched for its reputation. I was a busy mom at the time, and probably longed for some sort of respite from full time mommyhood. A mother of an only child has special challenges. Having to be on all the time...the mom, the companion, the teacher, the friend. I needed a break! And so too, did he need a break from me. We didn't live in a particularly kid-friendly neighborhood in Vancouver, so buddies were not in abundance.  This would give him a much needed opportunity to hang with kids his own age.
        We pulled into the camp and much to my consternation, were advised that they were doing a "lice check" and not to be alarmed. Not the welcome I had hoped for. We were given a cabin number and a counselor's name and we set off to unpack. The camp seemed a little shabby, but my boy was beside himself with excitement. We laid out his sleeping bag on his bunk of choice, toured the grounds and I realized I had to go to catch the return ferry. He looked at me and said, "What do I do now, Mom?" I had no idea. I didn't know what to say. I wanted to grab his hand, pull him close and never let go. I wanted to take him home, tell him I was sorry for every time I showed impatience or ire and just keep him. But instead, I gave him a quick hug, a brush of a kiss and said, "Walk me to the car." I pointed out a group of kids and said, "See you in a week. You know you can call me anytime if you need me. Call me at work, call me at home. It doesn't matter. I love you, love you, love you!" And I let go of his hand. I let go of his hand….I tried not to look in the rearview mirror at that little boy, standing alone in the driveway. But I did. He turned and walked timidly toward the others.
         I cried all the way to the ferry. I cried in the bathroom on the ferry. I felt that strange exhilaration at knowing he was in safe hands and that my schedule was my own for six days, but there was that gut-wrenching guilt at feeling like I had abandoned him.
         It was a long six days. Long. I fought the urge to call until about Thursday. The camp office assured me that I wasn't the only parent who called to check and said he was fine. That would have to do until Saturday at noon, when I'd arrive back to fetch him.
         I didn't know what to expect. Perhaps a cold shoulder, a reproachful glance. But no… he came bounding up to the car with a big kid-made wooden cross on a string around his neck. He talked a mile a minute, recounting all the prayer times, worship services, altar calls. His eyes had a light in them, a new light. I asked about canoeing, and golf and archery and he went on about Jesus. I was humbled. He had been touched and comforted and befriended by the Prince of Peace.
         That was his first experience at that camp and he returned for five more summers after that. As he progressed into the teen years, his experience took on a different dynamic. It was all about friends, then girls, then dates for dances at teen camp. No more wooden cross around his neck, but he did tell of long worship services and encounters with the Lord. He was growing up in spite of me. He was his own person with his own destiny calling. It was so hard to let go. Was then, still is. But I’m grateful for all the help along the way….the teachers, the camp leaders, the youth leaders, and our beloved Heavenly Father, the parent of all.
The Cross...Our Life Saver


  1. Yeah, God!
    An excellent piece, Michele!

  2. Thanks, Mary. Kids...they sure pull the heart strings!