In less than three weeks, my two children will be “leaving on a jet plane” for Camp Mishawaka. Twenty-nine years ago, my brothers and I said goodbye to our parents and boarded a plane to Minnesota. I remember my dad telling us how great summer camp was going to be, but I also remember feeling nervous, sad and a bit fearful. We ended up spending eight summers of our childhood on the shores of Lake Pokegama, and it was one of the best experiences of our lives.
In 2010, I came back to Camp Mishawaka for the Centennial Celebration. Seeing my childhood friends all grown up was so much fun! We all said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could come back to camp?” We all missed this special place so much. At that time, many of us had young children back at home, and I remember talking about the idea of sending my own children to camp someday. When I cradled them in my arms when I arrived from my weekend away, I thought, “How in the world did my parents send us away for such a long time every summer? There is no way I could ever do that!”
My brother Tim called me sometime in January and said he was ready to send his boys to camp this summer and asked if I would send mine. This was a big decision, and I honestly was not ready to let them go so soon. What made me change my mind? I started sharing camp stories and pictures with my children and brought out the old camp song book that I purchased for 75 cents at the camp store many years ago. My brother and I started talking more about Mishawaka memories, and we shared countless stories about our friends, skits at the Lodge, camp songs, tubing, tether ball, the track meets and swim meets, campfires, soapies, bug juice, banana boats, the trips, the overnight stays at Bob-o-Doc, the dance, the phantom pranks, sabotage, jumping off Gould pier and the water weenie. As much as I will miss them, I realized that I had to share this tremendous opportunity. There is nothing like Camp Mishawaka!
Our parents wanted us to have a joy-filled summer (and to have some time for themselves), but they also knew camp would instill a deep sense of independence. As difficult as it is for me to say goodbye to my “babies,” it is time to let them go for a short time. It’s their turn to create lifelong camp memories. There is so much more to the camp experience that I can’t put down on paper. They will live it and know it just like the rest of us who were lucky enough to call Mishawaka our summer home. I am already looking forward to their camp stories when they return homne and to hear them sing, “Mishawaka, Mishawaka is the place I long to be. Mishawaka, Mishawaka is the best old camp for me!”