Gum in Your Hair

A blog for parents under the big sky.

Editor’s Voice

:: EDITORIAL AND PHOTOS BY LEIGH RIPLEY ::

One of my daughter’s friends was at our house recently, lamenting that her parents won’t buy her a car (oh, to be Generation Z) and she emphatically stated that her parents only care about vacations and not the things she needs. To this I responded by telling her that vacations make memories, things don’t. 

Summer is vacation for kids, and what better way to make memories than camp? For me, camp truly was a vacation – for my sister, it was more of a punishment, but I looked forward to the long, hot, busy days spent outdoors with friends. 

It was an escape from school, sports training, chores, my sister, everything! Even myself. I attended a different camp every summer, so it was also a chance to start over, with a clean slate and be the best version of me I could be. 

I discovered my own inner strength by bravely (but certainly not without fear) leaving the safety and security of home for the unknown. I expanded my friendship circle and learned new things, so many things. 

There were many firsts…ascending a small, but seemingly HUGE rock face and then having to talk myself into belaying down it. Learning to canoe and how to safely recover if your boat were to flip (that was actually put to use in my college years; but that’s another story for another time). Firing a rifle. Shooting a bow and arrow. Sleeping under the stars. The end of camp field day games. Bug bites, thunderstorms, homesickness and, conversely, independence and pride. And as I got older, my first crush and my first kiss (he was a solid foot shorter than me and tasted like cherry bug juice). 

We didn’t have smart phones – or cell phones, for that matter – when I went to camp. You were rich if you arrived with a Polaroid camera, so I don’t have much physical evidence of my time there. But I do have vivid, colorful, memories.  

The morning dew that covered camp as we all arose to a bugle call and the ceremonious playing of Reveille, followed by morning announcements. The cold lake water we were forced to jump into at what felt like 6 a.m. I remember the face of the snake that appeared to be doing the breaststroke straight for me. The fear of performing a skit from a play in front of the entire camp. I’ll never forget the orange parka the prettiest girl in camp wore on rainy mornings. The smell of my trunk. The excitement that came with a care package from home. The giggles from the counselors who stayed up after they turned out our lights and ate the contents of our care packages. The water ballet performance in which I was a mermaid, wearing a cute bathing suit, and my little sister was the butt end of a caterpillar, dressed in a black garbage bag marching along the beach. The sense of absolute despair when at 14, I arrived at camp only to find out there were no mirrors or electricity in our cabins. How would I blow out my hair! 

My sister and I attended camp every summer until we were too old to go. Day camps, Girl Scout camps, sports camps, sleep-away camps – you name it. And those memories are dearer to me than any thing I ever received, even my first car. 

Give your child the greatest gift a kid can receive: camp. They may put up a fight and swear they are being punished, but even my sister looks back on those days with a smile, even if the greatest part of her experience was going home.