I never liked camp. No. Really, I hated it. My daughter loves it. She was there just a week ago, sweltering away in the heat, loving it. Laying in bed with the fans running, the cicadas' crescendo rising and falling, wind whistling through screens. She had a great time.
But I never liked it. First there was the fact that camp was nothing like. . . well, like home. In fact, that's just it: I wanted to be at home. My nights were filled with what seemed like endless hours of waiting for sleep to come, or waking and not being able to sleep, counting sheep, sheets sticking to me, feeling things crawling on me. I knew the sounds of sleep --- a moan here, a sigh there, the faintest signs of the great snores to come later in life. I heard it all. I credit this whole experience with the mild insomnia I still enjoy.
One night we slept out under the stars. Only I didn't sleep. I lay wake and watched the stars and missed home. Tiring of sheep, I named cigarette brands, TV shows, and went through the family tree and named all the cousins and aunts and uncles and various other once-removeds. I got up and walked around in the dark, circled my camp-mates. Even today, I'm still making lists, still getting up, circling.
Mostly, I spent those wakeful nights trying to figure out how I could get home. There was a telephone in the camp office, but you were not allowed to use it, and the office was locked. I could walk out, of course, but I had no idea where I was or how to actually get home. I could feign sickness, but I never could fake anyone out about anything. But still, I plotted. I didn't cry. At least there's that.
I wrote a few earnest letters of appeal home, something like "FREE ME" or "COME SOON," but no one came.
There were moments of distraction from my misery, when, for a few moments, I forgot about home.
We buried a live turtle, and then dug him up, guilt overcoming some of us.
We had a scavenger's hunt in the pouring rain, searching for five live red ants. We lost.
We were supposed to build a lean-to but were slackers. Our counselor gave up on us, even said a few unChristian words (we'd heard them before). We were ungrateful tweens.
The last night we gathered at the lake and sang Kum-Ba-Yah and other classic camp songs, only then they weren't classic because they hadn't lived long enough. Well, neither had we.
The sixth day, they came for me. The seventh day, I rested, at home. And I hoped I never had to go back.
All this ancient history would be incomprehensible to my daughter. She's a normal kid. She loves camp, swims, hikes, does crafts, meets lots of people because for goodness sakes she's a flippin' extrovert in a house of introverts. Incomprehensible! She wrote a letter saying all the things she did in one day, and after reading it I felt like I had to lie down I was so tired thinking about it, all that in the nearly 100 degree heat of Missouri, spelunking, swimming across the lake, carrying a big cross for a mile, and so on and so on in some kind of super-girl olympic camp.
But then my non-letter writing daughter wrote us five long letters, a most amazing gift, and in one, said this: "Guess what??? I dedicated my life to God." And that took me by surprise. That really did. Like all of us, she is a long project, and yet it is very good to be looking at the same map to life, finding our way (or better, being led) together.
So, did I say I love camp? I do. In the best of them, those sweltering, stinky, uncomfortable cabins and uncivilized environs are God-haunted and Spirit-worked. And you may just come Home there.