The Wilds of Camp

Six Weeks of Camp

The zip line was the biggest draw of all at camp. (Photo credit: Dana Pilson)

Daisy was hesitant on the first day. Arriving amidst a flock of parents and excited children, we were directed to the girl’s barn to drop off her things. Daisy was thrilled to find her name above a hook. She put her backpack on the bench and hung up her bathing suit and towel. I slathered her with sunscreen as she looked around and we read the names of the other girls who’d be coming that week. Thankfully, we already knew many of them. We then went outside and saw a boisterous group of boys chasing after one of the counselors, a long-legged good-natured teenager. A cluster of little girls were in the arts and crafts barn with another counselor, unspooling yards and yards of ‘gimp,’ — which I remember calling ‘lanyard.’ I excitedly rattled off the names of some of the stitches I knew: barrel, box, cobra, butterfly. Daisy picked out pink and purple. Trailing the strands behind her like an octopus, she went outside and finally found her best friend, Kira. They ran to each other and hugged as if it had been years, and not just since yesterday since they’d last seen each other. I gave Daisy one last big hug, took a commemorative photo, and was on my way.

It was hard, leaving my only child, to the wilds of camp. It was different than dropping her off at school, which was so predictable, so controlled. The playgrounds at school seemed so safe, the teachers so vigilant in comparison to this big, wide-open camp. Here, the kids roamed about not always under the watchful eyes of the counselors. There was so much more freedom and independence, a good thing, I knew deep-down. Yet I worried about poison ivy and heat-stroke, bears, drowning, bee stings and Daisy getting lost in the woods. I worried about all the possible things that could take my precious only away from me. But I took a deep breath, and let go. There was nothing else I could do. Lonely in my car, I drove down the hill, not even turning on the radio.

That afternoon at pick-up, Daisy excitedly announced that she wanted to go to this camp every year until she could come back as a counselor. And when she was grown up she wanted to send her kids to camp, too. Before heading home, she had to show me everything: the pond they swam in, the frog pond where they netted tadpoles, the tree under which they’d had nachos and cheese for snack, and where they ate lunch (the camp Golden Retriever snagged half of her pizza bagel, she traded the other half to one of the counselors for handful of Oreos), the blueberry bushes growing behind the house, the rope swing, and the biggest draw of them all: the zip line.  She clambered up the ladder to the platform and before I could turn around off she zipped, speeding fast, to ricochet off the tree at the other end and drop to the ground with a huge smile on her face. She continued to ride the zip line until the camp director waved from her porch and I realized we were the last ones there. It was time to go home.

After such an eventful first day, we worried she might lose interest over six weeks. But as each day went by, she loved it even more. They learned songs like “Titanic” and “The Cat Came Back,” they built fairy houses and gnome homes in the woods, drank sarsaparilla tea, tie-dyed and painted and wove and beaded and made endless lanyards, tracked critters and found feathers, picked sun-ripened blueberries and played with the dogs. At quiet time, the older kids read books to the younger ones, and they worked on journals together. –  Sure there were some rough spots: Daisy didn’t like the sarsaparilla tea they served once a week, she couldn’t really get the hang of braiding the ‘gimp,’ and the dog kept eating her lunch. But the six weeks flew by, and then it was time to go back to school. Now, at last, school is ending this week, and after the July fourth weekend, camp starts up again. I’m sure I’ll be re-visited by my many worries, but I imagine this year letting go will be just a little bit easier. And as long as that zip line is still working, we should be golden.


Dana “Dee” Pilson

Dee lives with her professor husband and young daughter in rural Pownal, Vermont, just over the state line from Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is an art historian and has worked in museums in New York City, Boston, and Williamstown. She has been an avid writer since the tender age of eight, filling journals with personal essays and short stories, as well as mounds of poetry, both serious and whimsical. New Yorker by birth, New Hampshire-ite by schooling, and now Vermonter by choice, Dee writes about art and architecture, the environment, books, food, exercise, travel, and green living. Her new blog, “The Power of One,” focuses on issues related to parenting an only child in today’s child-centric world.

2 Comments on “The Wilds of Camp

  1. Hi,
    Do you mind if I ask the name of the camp that your daughter went to? It sounds like a great place!

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