“Camp is my home away from home.” For anyone who has ever attended a summer camp, the saying is excessively used, overzealously clichéd, and yet entirely the truth.
I first attended Andy Brown and Dan Grabel’s summer camps when I was eight years old. A wide-eyed and pudgy soon-to-be-third-grader, I hadn’t a clue what I had signed up for. Upon my arrival, and from the morning of my first day through the evening of my seventh, I told myself and everyone who would listen to me how much I hated it there, how much I wanted to return home. Simply, I was homesick. I wrote my family letters. I begged the staff to let me speak with my parents over the phone so that I could plea my case, a plea I had rehearsed in my head time and time again, for an early arrival back. But every afternoon, I met with Andy, and he convinced me to stick it out just one more day, to sleep at camp just one more night. We’d shake hands, and the next day we would meet again. After the first week, the next time I cried was my last evening there, my fourteenth in total. This time, however, I was crying because I didn’t want to leave. I begged my parents to let me stay one more night; I pleaded for a late arrival back.
Fast forward eleven summers later: it is 2018, I am a senior counselor, the camp life has become routine to me, and yet it is more of the same. Without fail, every first night at camp, I would be homesick–though always a trifle less homesick than the summer before–and at the close of every summer’s final night, I would be overwrought with emotion. But the emotion I felt towards this eleven-month detachment, very much unlike the homesickness, never waned from summer to summer. In fact, as I returned to camp each year, my emotional attachment toward it only strengthened, and the melancholy of saying goodbye only intensified.
I’ve made some of my best friends because of Dan and Andy. I met my first girlfriend because of Dan and Andy. No matter what hardships I had been dealing with at home or at school, I always knew there was a place for me, a place where I could experience unfaltering bliss for a month or two at a time, and all because of Dan and Andy. There is no better way to put it: it was my home away from home. And somehow, even as I grow older, and even as I continually miss out on those starry summer nights at camp because of school, or work, or my ever-growing list of adult responsibilities, I feel that it will always be.
– Sam Frank