There are a lot of things that camp can give you, but I think one of the most important things it offers is togetherness—a type of togetherness that is unachievable anywhere else. I never realize until I re-enter the so-called “real world” after camp each summer how lucky I am to have a space where, by the end of breakfast, I have already received a dozen hugs, sung a screaming song, and laughed a hundred times.
It’s like having the world’s biggest family, where you wake up and spend all day every day completely surrounded by love. No matter who you are at camp, no matter who you already know or who you haven’t met, you can walk up to any group or any table and feel welcome and at home. There is this instant familiarity with camp people. It’s hard to describe, but it doesn’t really matter if you actually know one another. If you are both at camp, you have a bond, and you can immediately be your total and complete selves.
At camp you become accustomed to this togetherness rather quickly. Only here would a friend being gone for a day and a night feel like a lifetime; only here would her return be received with cheers and hugs as if she has come back from a harrowing, year-long expedition. Only here can a bond between two friends who have known each other for just a few days equal that of a typical pair who have been friends for years.
It is those bonds, those astonishingly instantaneous bonds of friendship, that are what all this togetherness truly brings. I led a trip last week with a group of eight girls, one of whom was new to camp this summer. She was a second session camper on a trip with girls who had not only been together for the past four weeks, but many who had been together for the past four years. I didn’t know that this new camper had known the other girls for only a week until somebody told me. The way they laughed and worked together made it seem as if she’d been with them the whole time.
Thunderbird teaches us confidence and resilience and outdoors skills, but I think the most important thing it does is teach us how to be there for each other. This constant camp togetherness means knowing everything about each other. It means seeing each other at our best, our worst, and everything in between. It means accepting each other throughout all of those moments, which always bring us closer in the end. It means learning at very young ages that there are layers to every person and that everyone deserves a chance to be peeled back and understood. It means learning to move on quickly from upsetting moments because why hold on to frustration when we love each other and it is only lunchtime and there is so much more fun and togetherness to be had.
Camp even teaches you to love those with whom you might not always get along. There might be someone who sometimes makes you angry, but still you have that deep camp connection with her. You have grown with her and struggled with her and learned to solve problems with her. You have learned about her layers and you have grown to understand why she might do the things she does. And even though you know you clash sometimes, you also know that if you ever need her, she will be there.
What is so cool about all this togetherness is that it sticks when camp is over. Sure we all go home and we are not physically together anymore, but those friendships stay strong. That depth and trust endures. As we enter our final week of the summer, we will appreciate every moment of togetherness that we have left. We will remember that the friendships this togetherness has given us are strong enough to last far beyond the summer. Most importantly, we will remember that it won’t be long until we are all together again, feeling like not one moment has passed.
Molly “Pixel” Sprayregen