Today my husband and I dropped our eight year old daughter off at overnight camp for the first time. Before we arrived, we drove through my hometown (where the camp is located) to see some of my old haunts, my old church and even stopped by my old house. It was a great moment of nostalgia for me, though some of it was sad. The street adjacent to the one I grew up on was fairly overgrown with trees and pretty much unrecognizable. The street I grew up on, well, the houses had gotten rather run down. My childhood home no longer had the fence in the back and the awning was gone. The driveway had been untended for who knows how long and there were weeds and grass growing up through what used to be a solid driveway. There was a bit of a rockery at the front but the shrubs had all been allowed to overgrow. The house next door where we used to visit rather frequently had fallen into disrepair and the rest of the street looked like it had run down quite a bit. The tree that used to be about my height had grown into a huge shade tree on the tiny island in the middle of the court and it was actually quite pretty. As we drove down the road on our way to drop my daughter at camp we passed the old recreation centre where I used to go swimming. I was closed down and looked as though it was on its way to becoming something else. Very few things were the same, except the names of streets. We did pass the old Canadian Tire where I had one of my last jobs before moving out of that town, complete with the gas station in the exact location as it had been twelve years ago.
Ah yes. Nostalgia. We passed the plaza where I worked as a bus girl at a chinese buffet. That restaurant had been replaced by a bowling alley, but the office where my father worked for years and years was still standing. We drove up to the lake where I spent many summers and some winters with my friends and family, either on day trips or overnight camping. We passed the church on the way where we had our grade eight graduation banquet and had attended a few concerts (and where I had a momentary crush on the lead singer of End of Illusion). The dam that lead up to the lake was the same as it had been, though the water was much lower due to this summer’s drought. We passed the river where I had spent many a happy hour with friends and the occasional boyfriend. So many memories washed over me. The most amazing thing to me was standing in the sanctuary where my husband and I were married and being able to show our daughter exactly where everyone had stood on that happy day. Then we walked down the hall and stepped into the room which we had used as our banquet hall over twelve years ago. I was immediately hit with a familiar smell, which until the man who let us into the building mentioned it, I had no idea what it was. Chlorine. Chlorine that had somehow stayed in the walls despite paint and the pool being filled in over two decades ago and a carpet being set on the newly flattened floor.
Memories of our whole congregation getting together to fix up the old YMCA and turn it into a church building, swirled around me. I stood on the same purple carpet that had been installed the day before the church was dedicated. I looked upon the stage where my husband and I had enjoyed our first meal as a married couple, along with our wedding party, overlooking two hundred of our closest friends and family. The same room that had been used as the sanctuary at first and where I would sing solos on a Sunday morning or where our youth group performed dramas based on Christian songs. We went up to the gym, and though it had changed a lot, I could still picture a group of eight to ten teens playing volleyball together on a Thursday night. In that same gym the AWANA program ran every Wednesday night. It was the same gym where my first boyfriend accidentally spiked me in the face with a volleyball and all our friends laughed themselves silly.
At last we went downstairs and I stood in the foyer where my first boyfriend asked me out. And I stood by the last boyfriend to ever ask me out, remembering how he had taken me to the lake and asked me to be his girlfriend. And now, with this man’s ring on my finger and our little girl by my side, it just felt amazing to be back, even if only for a little while.
I know this post started with taking my daughter to camp, but I couldn’t resist a rabbit trail. Anyway, we got my daughter to camp a little early for registration, so we did a tour. I think it’s safe to say she is pretty much ‘glamping’ all week. The camp is also a conference centre, so the facilities are all pretty nice. Instead of cabins, my daughter and her friends are staying in an air conditioned dorm. The girls had bunks and there are seven girls in my daughter’s room plus two female staff. Two bathrooms complete with tubs, a nice dining hall, a bookstore, an air conditioned gym, mini golf, a beautiful chapel, a cute tree house, a climbing wall, a pool with two water slides and a splash pad beside it…well, my daughter will lack for nothing this week. After watching her take her swim test, I kidded with her that I’m jealous she will get to swim all week.
Now we are home and my daughter is at camp over an hour away. I can’t believe how fast she’s grown. She will do fine there and I know she will have an abundance of stories to tell when we pick her up on Saturday. I will miss her some this week but am so grateful that she can spend this week there and make some incredible memories. I remember camp as a kid, though it was family camp. Still, those are memories you cherish forever. The friends, the songs, the counselors, the food, the camp fires and the fun. As a kid in the summer, what more could you ask for?
Until next time, keep dreaming and never give up.