Last Sunday, we dropped our two oldest girls off at camp for one week. I attended this same camp growing and loved every single minute I was there. I loved my counselors, the friends I made from other towns across Texas and Arkansas, and the opportunity I had to try new things, like jumping off of a pamper pole, shooting a rifle, or making my way across a ropes course.
Lizzie, our eight-year-old, was nervous but excited about her first year of camp. She made a sign and taped it across the inside of her trunk: “Camp T Bar M…Here I Come!” Every picture I’ve seen of her this week on the camp website contains a big smile.
Lillian…not so much. The day before she left, she pulled Jason aside, took his face in her hands, and said, “Dad, I know I’m not supposed to use this word except in regards to sin or Satan, but I HATE, HATE, HATE camp…I need your word that you will not make me go next year.”
Apparently the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree, because when Jason was nine years old, his parents sent him to camp for a month and he hated every minute of it as well. One of the greatest things my mother-in-law ever did was to save Jason’s camp letters. They are the gift that just keeps giving every time we pull them out. Since they are just too good to keep to ourselves, I thought I would share a few of them with you:
Translation (I’ve kept the spelling as is just so you don’t have to miss out): “Dear Mom and Dad, I Hate (double underscore) this camp and you were wrong, it is not a blast. I was writing that good stuff because the counselors would see but now I will tell you from the bottom of my heart. I hate this camp. Pick me up before Monday because I can’t stand it. I just got Mike’s shirt and your letter. Pick me up soon. I almost threw up and I threw up some the other day. Pick me up soon, please. This is a cussing camp a not-caring-for-camp, and that is No (double underscore with stars) Lie. I hate it. Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate (it’s true, he wrote “Hate” twenty-one times) it. Will you pick me up. They make you do stuff and they said they wouldn’t. Pick me up soon. Will you send me some Christian comic books? Cause I am getting bourd. They don’t do anything fun here. God loves you and so do I. Write back soon. Love, Jason” (And he writes the word “Hate” thirteen more times underneath his name to underscore the point just in case they missed the overall tone and theme of the letter.)
And here’s just one more. This one happens to be my personal favorite, maybe just because I know how much my husband hates to dance even now as a forty-five year old:
Translation: “Dear Mom and Dad and Bunch, They cuss here and I hate it. They have disco too. I wish you would pick me up. Will you. Please, unless you want me to hear cussing and probably copy, which I doubt. This is a harable place. Pick me up, please. They make you do stuff. I can’t stand it. This is like a cussing home, I promise. Nobody is Nice to me. I was thinking of running away and hiding, I promise. I just received your letter. Pick me up Thursday. Please. It is freezing at night. I feel like an ice berge. Jesus loves me. In fishing you get to fish for 2 minutes. This is like a desert. We had pizza and it was harable. I hate (double underscore) this whole camp. I can’t stand it any longer or I will have to hide. God loves you and so do I but, pick me up or I will have to hide. (And his last ditch effort to hit his mom where it counts…) Dear Mom I am not getting to read my divotional. Pick me up soon. Write back soon. Love, Jason”
Please, please read these out loud and wipe the tears off your cheeks either from sorrow or hysterical laughter that a nine-year-old boy wrote such things as: “This is a cussing camp, a not-caring-for-camp,” or “This is like a cussing home, I promise.” What does that even mean?!? I couldn’t make these letters up, even if I tried. And these are just a sampling – we have a whole book of them from his month away.
Thankfully, we haven’t received any letters home yet from Lillian quite this drastic, but I have a feeling she is not having the time of her life. She is our official homebody, and a perfect day for her consists of sitting in a chair while she reads at least one or two books, making a few charms or bracelets on her rainbow loom, starting a craft with her sisters, and getting up sporadically to play the piano. The longest trip she takes is from the reading chair to the piano. She went to camp for the first time last year, and when we picked her up, we asked her if she liked it: “Yes!” she said, “I had a good time, but I don’t want to go back next year.” Sorry, Lils. We didn’t give her much of a vote in the matter.
Before you feel too sorry for her, her bunk is right next to her cousin, one of her favorite people on the planet, and right above her are two of her good friends from Houston.
I sent her a post card this week with a quote from Jane Austen on the front that says, “If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”
Being a homebody is a wonderful thing, something I really appreciate about Lillian. She reminds me to slow down and sit for a spell when life is spinning crazily out of control. On the other hand, Caroline, our six-year-old, would prefer to spend every night away from home and is counting down the days until she gets to go to camp. I’m just hoping she remembers to say goodbye to us on her way out the door! She helps me get up off my tush and venture into the outside world when Lillian and I have decided to hole up like hobbits. Everyone is wired differently, but sometimes, everyone needs a change in perspective to understand new things about themselves, others, the world around them, and even God Himself. A change of location often provides that change of perspective, and summer is a great time to pick a new point on the map.
I wrote to Lils telling her that I was praying she embraced the week and the change of perspective instead of refusing to enjoy it and simply counting down the days until she returned home. Sometimes our adventures we handpick for ourselves, and other times they are picked for us. But I pray for all of us this summer, whether it’s a trip to a part of our city or to a neighborhood we have never seen before, or a different city or country altogether, we would be willing to trade location for perspective, learning to see the bigness of God, the beauty of others, and sides to ourselves we would never have known were there had we decided to stay…at home.