I have vivid childhood memories of coming home after my summers at Camp Takajo. The hugs and kisses from my parents were incredible, and the outpouring of affection showed me how much they missed me. But it was also a celebration of what I had accomplished while I was away from the nest. Like many of you, my parents could have kept me home to participate in local programs, but they understood the importance of providing me with the opportunity to branch out, make new friends, and collect experiences without their daily oversight.
On the way home from the airport, we would always go to our local club for lunch because my parents knew I loved the hamburgers there. Those first few days after returning home were always about providing me with “transitional continuity” that allowed me to slowly integrate back into my old routine. I could tell my parents were eager to hear stories about camp, games that I had played, and friends that I made, but they never pried. They instinctively understood that I was exhausted and needed time to reconnect with family, friends, and my environment before I could start sharing. Sometimes months would pass and a song or a comment would trigger an experience, and then I couldn’t wait to share it.
While everyone’s transition will be slightly different, the common thread is every parent’s intense desire to reconnect with their children and welcome them back home. Your boys are coming off long days and little sleep. Their days have been structured with very little downtime. Coming home from camp is analogous to running a marathon. The pace has been nonstop, and they have just crossed the finish line, exhilarated but exhausted.
I am confident that every child has grown immeasurably from his experience this summer. It is natural that the way one parent measures their son’s growth may be different than another’s. For some, athletic development and enhanced skill is a prized benefit. For others, seeing their son learn how to manage his personal belongings, develop socialization skills, and “read a room” defines success. What matters most is that this is a time of celebration when families reconnect and share in the success of an incredible summer.
After a day of packing, we came together for one last time at our Closing Campfire. This tradition has taken place since the camp’s inception in 1947 and, for those who have experienced sitting around a roaring campfire under a starlit sky, you can imagine the beauty in this moment. The evening was filled with traditional readings from the camp’s heritage box along with lighter moments when our younger campers were selected to participate in a squat dance. Towards the end of the campfire, two brave counselors (who signed a consent waiver!) performed the Flaming Hoop Dance to an amazed and admiring crowd.
At the end of the ceremony, we called our Okees down to lead the camp one last time. They created a circle around the campfire, linked arms, and led us in the summer’s last singing of the Alma Mater. When the realization hit them that this was their last official act as the leaders of the camp and the summer had officially come to an end, they choked back tears as the emotion of the moment was more than most could handle.
We took the embers from our final campfire and will hold them until we return for next summer’s opening campfire. By placing the embers from our final campfire into our opening campfire, we create a continuous thread from one summer to the next.
This will be my final summer blog post. It has been my honor and pleasure to spend this summer with your sons, and I thank you for your continued trust and confidence. Wishing you a happy end to your summer and a healthy start to the fall season.