The frenetic pace of Camp Takajo has come to an end, and the realization that our season is coming to a close is starting to resonate on the faces of our campers and staff. Over the past seven weeks, we’ve become so accustomed to spending time together, celebrating accomplishments, and comforting one another in moments of sadness. By this time tomorrow, the campus will fall silent, and your boys will be home.
This morning after breakfast, a little boy stood outside my door and patiently waited for me to end a phone call so that he could enter my office. Before I could ask him what I could do for him, he looked me in the eye and thanked me for not giving up on him. A few short weeks ago, we had a series of conversations in my office when this little boy was convinced that he couldn’t make it another day. For him, the separation from home was more than he could bear. But like so many others who have felt those moments of doubt, in an instant at camp this place can take on a whole new meaning– a connection with one boy who becomes a friend, an accomplishment at an activity that was once a source of trepidation. This camper managed to find his rhythm and, in turn, gained incredible self-confidence.
How does one measure a successful summer for their child? As a parent, we want there to be this euphoric experience of sheer joy and non-stop happiness, but in reality, none of us live that life every day and week of the year. Camp is a microcosm of the real world, where some days are better than others, and we have to take responsibility for our own happiness. Your boys have grown this summer, physically, emotionally, and socially. It saddens me to think that within hours of returning home, they will likely have a phone or a tablet in their hands, and they will resort back to using their thumbs rather than their words. Camp allowed your boys to unplug, step away from the social pressures that are often created in communities, and allowed your son to feel at home and a member of our family.
Today, I had our Okees, our boys who have finished ninth grade, over for lunch at my home. For over an hour, we sat together, and I allowed them to ask me any question they wanted about camp. This has become a tradition over the years. The boys asked me some poignant questions about capital reinvestments into the facility, my most challenging moments as a camp director, whether I pulled an Okee prank as a camper, and whether I have a succession plan in place. We reminisced about their time in camp-– what it felt like to be a little boy walking into an unknown community for the first time and how those fearful moments have turned into some of the best moments of their lives. They have created friendships that they pledge will last a lifetime.
I know what you must be feeling in anticipation of seeing your son tomorrow, and I smile imagining that first embrace. Don’t let go. That first hug will likely be the most amazing feeling you have felt in a long time, and that son who may likely squirm away from you a few weeks from now will nestle into you in a way that you’ll probably never forget.
Keep in mind, that your son is physically and emotionally exhausted. Picture the marathon runner who still has enough energy to sprint through the finish line only to collapse at the end of the race. Your boys don’t realize how tired they are because they are still overstimulated by the excitement of being here at camp. You will be eager for information and instinctively pepper them with questions. Some boys might have much to say, while other boys will need time to process the transition from camp to home before they spew out everything that occurred this summer. This is normal, but I assure you, when you least expect it sitting at a meal, a song will come on and will trigger those happy moments, and you will hear all about it.
As I end my last blog post of the camp season, I want to thank you for the trust and confidence you have given to me and my staff this summer. I spend my whole year waiting for those buses to roll into camp, and while there’s an emptiness and a loss as I watch those buses head up the hill for the final time, I am thankful for the opportunity to spend time with your son.