Monday, August 21, 2006

A Toast

There’s a ruckus. And you’re a part of it. It’s coming from a building high atop a hill. The voices rise up and there’s a steady thr-um, a rhythm, behind it all.

The lilting, screaming, filled with hope and wonder voices of girls “We’re from Camp Barton, and our tribe’s the BEST tribe, we fight the Camp Joslins they’re SEVEN FEET TALL!” And underneath, the pounding of small hands on long folding tables.

The air smells of pine and cedar and pond water and sun tan lotion and bug spray and sugar-free red juice. It is a smell as unique to this place as the sounds rising up from you and from this building on a hill. And there is a feeling too – a feeling that you want to stay right where you are forever – right in this moment – with the sounds and the smells all around. You’d rather be here than anywhere else.

The mornings are cold and the days are pretty hot – it rains sometimes. The bullfrogs that live behind the cabins make so much noise at night, it’s hard to sleep. The excitement that never seems to leave you when you’re here makes it even harder.

You are home. This place knows you, and it loves you in spite of your struggling and your imperfections. And you love this place – with its funny smells and its old cabins and its cot-beds and its rules around food and its non-stop, frenzied activity. You love it in spite of its flaws – in pure fact, you love it BECAUSE of them.

Your life seems less complicated when you’re surrounded by the friends you’ve made here. The two weeks – if you’re lucky, the four or six or eight weeks – you spend here are the ones that you look forward to all year. They are, sometimes, the only ones that really matter to you at all. You know when you arrive, you’ll be welcomed, you’ll be understood, you’ll be loved – and you’ll be more able to accept the disease that brings you here. Your friends will tell you everything about their year at school, about what they’ve brought with them for the stay, about what they’re looking forward to – and what they’re not looking forward to. There are new friends too – who look a little afraid – and you’ll do your best to make them feel as welcomed here as you do. Soon, the lines between the old friends and the new will be totally imperceptible.

You’ll learn a lot, you’ll laugh – more than you thought you could, and you’ll get to say the things that you can’t say to everyone. The things that mean the most to the people here – and those people are often thinking or saying those same things – the things that few know as intimately as you know them.

And the noise from that building on the hill, the ruckus you’re making, rings out from your heart and carries over the pond and into the skies above the pines.

This is your place – your time – the moment you’d like to keep forever. And years later, when your life has brought you places miles and decades from those sounds and smells, you’ll still visit them. You’ll remember those days and the way they made you feel – and those memories will sustain you when the going gets tough. And you’ll carry with you the friends you made here – and you’ll be able to say to them the things that you can’t say to others – the things that few know as intimately as you know them.

Sing it with me now, those of you who know this place… “We’re from Camp Barton and our tribe’s the BEST tribe. We fight the Camp Joslins, they’re SEVEN FEET TALL. They try to BEAT us, but they can’t DEFEAT us, cause we’re from Camp Barton and we’re off the wall! Siiiinnngginggg……!”

Sometimes, I wish for more than the memories. And I raise my glass to the Barton Camp – and the places like Barton, that give kids with diabetes a chance to feel really, truly at home – really, truly normal, really, truly accepted (flaws and all).


bethany said...

sinnnnnnnnnnnnnngggggginnnnnnng ... ommp pow wow ommp pow wow ommp pow wow ommp pow wow ... we're from camp barton and we're off the wall!

it makes me think of all the bus rides to and from joslin every tuesday night all summer long.

julia said...

I'll have to have Olivia read this post. She'll get a kick out of it.

Kerri. said...

I raise my glass as well to CBC and Camp Joslin and to all of the ridiculous songs and chants I learned over my summers there.

And to every single camper who became my friend. Even if I've met them long after camp has ended. :)

caren said...

This place knows you... it feels like home.


Thanks for the smile and the wonderful reminder.


J said...

Oh the smells just thinking about them brings it all back and some morning when I actually get up early and I go outside and smell the due or the damp trees it brings me right back to CBC polar bear swim the look of I need coffee on my face but always back to CBC thanks Nik

Lucia V said...

I haven't been a CBC camper in more than a decade, but your post just took me right back. Thank you so much- beautifully written- I can almost smell bug spray & pond water right now...