I have been singing and humming to myself all night. What's with this uncharacteristic dose of happiness?
Yup. I'm thinking about muggy nights, color wars, arts and crafts, awkward dances, even more awkward first kisses, jelly fish stings, wind surfing, lanyards, volleyball, vespers, gong shows, dining halls, ridiculous skits, cots, sleeping bags, Bible studies, rafting, tents, cabins.
Ah, summer camp. How I loved thee.
Thanks to my exceedingly generous parents, I spent weeks every summer at different camps. Orchestra Camp (yes, I'm a dork.), Field Hockey Camp, Ecology Camp, and the nerdiest of all ... drumroll... International Relations Camp. (We debated NAFTA. Yes. We were rockstars.)
But my favorite by far was the one week every summer I spent at Camp Pecometh. Yes. Church camp. And let me tell you, peeps and peepettes, it was always, unequivocally, without-a-doubt, the Best. Week. Ever.
Pecometh, a Native American sounding name that actually stands for Peninsula Conference Methodists, was 90 minutes from home and a world and a half away.
That place and that pier. Sigh, talk about something, some place, and some time I'll never forget. Learning with windsurf. Learning to sail. Learning to shave. Meeting people from other countries for the first time (I seem the remember the Aussie counselors being seriously hot). Learning what it meant to "go out" with a boy. A few years later, having my first kiss on the camp's pier with a turned-out-to-be-crazy boy named Wayne. My first exposure to Nirvana and daisy dukes.
It was my dream to work there as soon as I turned 16 and was old enough to be a lifeguard. (Counselors were in college.) I dreamed about it: That awesome red Speedo, a gleaming metal whistle, a whole summer of freedom and romance and sun. It wasn't about God then. It was about learning who I was and who I could be, where I fit and where I didn't.
I never became that lifeguard. Instead, I spent the summer of 1996 as an oh-so-responsible high school intern at a local TV station. I processed promos, had a creepy shooter white balance on my ass (note to self, never, EVER wear a white skirt again), hung out on live shoots, organized resume tapes, close captioned segments and replied to viewers who just HAD to have copies of Mr. Food's recipe of the day. The next summer it was another internship at the local newspaper. And then it was about resume-building. I never looked back.
Maybe that's why I've been singing so much tonight.
Nearly two decades after I first stumbled into Camp Pecometh, I'm now an active member of a church that I love. While you'll never find me preaching about faith (Shoes? Yes. Grammar? Oh, hell yes. God? Nope.) I really am so glad and grateful that it's part of my life. It's where you'll find me every Sunday (and most Wednesdays), where you'll find so many of my Chicago friends, and where I devote so much of my out-of-work-energy.
It's because of that involvement that you'll find me at another church camp next month, participating in a young adults retreat. It's not Pecometh. Nothing ever will be. Still, it's a chance to get away from the city and everything that makes you so tired here. It's a chance to hang with people who've become some of my best friends. There will be s'mores and crafts. Bible study. (Unlike Pecometh, there will more than likely be beer. There's probably going to be a 100 percent decrease in making out. For me, anyway.) And if I have my way, there will be singing.
I didn't intend to blog tonight. Instead, I thought I'd search for titles and lyrics for some of the old Pecometh songs as preparation for the retreat gets under way, hoping to survey some other people and creating a songbook with guitar tabs for the event. That prompted a Facebook status asking my friends what their favorite church camp song were. One hour and 22 comments later, it seems like I'd really hit a sweet spot for people. I guess when you're a kid and you're learning who you are and how the universe works, songs and music are a great way to identify, connect with, and discover your faith and your view of the world.
So tonight, I'm humming songs like Humble Thyself, Sanctuary, Seek Ye First, I Will Call Upon You Lord, and that perennial camp number: Pass It On. I'm thinking about Wayne and camp antics. What it looked like to see the sun set over the river. Or the sound of a few hundred kids singing hymns by candlelight in an outdoor chapel.
What a blessing, indeed.
What's your favorite camp memory? Favorite song? Church camp or not, I wanna know!