I first went to camp the summer in which I turned ten. It wouldn't be my recommendation, that a 9-year-old girl who'd lost her mother and brother two years earlier, and had just acquired a new stepmother and step-siblings, be sent 400 miles away for two months ~ but camp probably saved my life or, at the very least, what was left of my childhood. Gwynn Valley was designed as a non-competitive, nature-centered camp for young children, and for me it became a haven from family trauma and a source of freedom and joy. We sent all of our children there, hoping that it would be a similar source of sustenance for them.
The international staff was a huge factor in propelling Josh to Rennes for a year of high school, his brother to Lyons and Barcelona during college summers, and their sister to Prague for a college semester. Josh and The Lovely Daughter both returned to camp for several summers of employment.
It's an incredibly restorative place, much as it has been for 75 years this summer. And, while I'm not one for finding experiences of a loved one's "presence" after they have died ~ in the nearly 50 years since she died, I have not once sensed the presence of my mother ~ as we drove into camp last week, I did ~ I felt Josh everywhere. And then I realized: he was there as a young boy, kicking a soccer ball and jumping through mountain streams; he was there as an adolescent, trying on his first real responsibilities as a contributor to an enterprise beyond himself; he was there as a young man, passing on to other boys what he had once enjoyed. And he was there even before he was born, when his father and I rediscovered camp on a trip down to North Carolina when I was pregnant with him and his brother. Why wouldn't the place be filled with his spirit?
Our girl is there now. She turned five at camp when we went for a family week, she was an enthusiastic camper on her own a few years later, and this is her third (every other summer) venture as a counselor. I'm glad that she has one more summer in such a gentle and loving community, surrounded by blue mountains and farm animals and sparkling streams.