Sunday, March 25, 2007

Coming Home To A Place I'd Never Been Before

When Helen Frady called me and asked me if I would write an article for the Alumni newsletter, I immediately arose the occasion. Then, as I started to think about what I would write about, I was struck with the awareness that it had been 7 years since I had attended Alumni Camp. What could I possible write about? Since I moved up to Upstate, NY in 1999, Camp Longhorn (CLH) has seemed so far away, geographically speaking. However, on the contrary, there is evidence of CLH everywhere in my house.

We are in the process of moving which involves the arduous task of packing. While packing, I have had the unexpected joy of discovering CLH again: an ATTAWAYTOGROW ruler, V-Day orange cups, CLH magnets, coffee mugs, T-shirts, pens, pencils and merits everywhere! In fact, I carry around a handful of merits on my key ring. My friends have heard countless stories about my CLH experiences. They look at me in disbelief when I share stories of swimming in a cow trough, swimming a mile in a lake full of catfish and turtles, playing in the mud pit my Marina year, zipping down a trolley line several feet in the air, teaching 9 year olds how to shoot a rifle, sailing with mere novices, standing in the snake pit and handling snakes. I have even trained all of my friends to call the bathroom the ‘library’ (my librarian friends adamantly have refused to conform).

I remember arriving on the bus at Indian Springs my very first year as a Seahorse was like “coming home to a place I’d never been before”. Not only had I found a place where everybody is somebody, but CLH re-introduced me to the person I really was meant to be. My first year at camp came a few short months after I had been uprooted in the middle of my 7th grade year by my family’s move from Houston to San Antonio. You could say that I was in a major adjustment period and CLH was the perfect elixir. CLH gave me several new friends and it taught me to believe in myself again.

When my daughters were babies they were rocked to sleep with CLH songs (sleep deprivation couldn't dim the words of Longhorn Girl, Taps, Among the Hills and Dales, Sipping Cider). They have heard countless tales about my summers spent in a little town in Texas called Burnett. I have passed along some of the CLH traditions in our home like you can have fun on a hot summer day with a couple of cans of shaving cream (thanks to the memories of having FUN activity with the Palominos’ ~ they wanted to either paint the counselor or cover themselves in shaving cream every day!!!). My girls know that I am the person I am today, because of the life lessons I learned at CLH. Not only the rappelling, sailing, blobbing, but the sense that no matter what trials come your way in life, a little bit of pep-and-chatter ,a positive attitude and a smile can turn a rainy day to a day filled with sunshine.

Being a counselor at Indian Springs taught me that I could do much more than I knew I was capable of doing. When Nan assigned me to the Pony Cabin one year as head counselor I almost melted into a puddle of tears. I wasn’t that good with the little kids ~ I preferred to have the Marina cabins, I could relate to them. Nan is a wise woman and has always been good at seeing potential in her counselors and she definitely put me to the test. Sharing a term with the Ponies that summer was a growing experience for me. Their wide eyed innocence and their new found love for CLH was beautiful. I even found the opportunity to use my Spanish skills to communicate with one of our campers who was from Bogotá, Columbia.

People ask me why, at 36, I am still sharing tales of a summer camp way down in Texas? Most seem to think that camp is a childish pastime. For me, CLH is a part of me and always will be. It ties me to my Texas roots. Camp Longhorn, I love it!

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