And, we’re off!

Greetings from Hilltop. And, just like that, First Session has begun. After all the preparation taken by both us here at camp and in homes all over, it’s actually begun. In this time of uncertainty, it’s refreshing that as it should be, on June 23 or thereabouts, laughter, hugs, pizza and pickleball are on the shores of Westsound again.

It was a big day for everyone. Our testing at the various sites today, though thrown in at the last minute, wasn’t too logistically challenging. We did catch a few cases, though not as many as we had feared. Those campers all have a plan that works for them, and we look forward to seeing them soon. We did get our fair share of non-COVID curveballs today – late flights, our designated parking lot at Woodland Park closed for construction, a nude bicyclist taking advantage of a lovely Thursday morning making his way through our improvised Woodland Park site, and boats that needed to be loaded right now. But, at the end of it, we all made it to camp well before flags and dinner, and all is well.

Spirits are high among the campers and counselors. You can sense the eagerness for normal camp. Last year, given the cancellation of summer 2020 and the uncertainty well into spring 2021 that summer 2021 could happen, there was an eagerness for any camp at all. This year, the eagerness is for normal camp. And (with a few small exceptions) we’re pleased that that’s what the campers will experience.

Given that there are some close contacts among our campers, and that one counselor tested positive this morning, we’re going to start out wearing masks and spreading eating out a bit, with some cabins eating off the lodge deck. But, that will be the only change from normal camp. Tomorrow, campers will fill out forms to pick their own classes for the first time since 2019. On Tuesday, we’ll test everyone again, and if we can get to zero cases, the masks will come off and all tables will go on the Lodge deck, and we’ll be nearly indistinguishable from 2019. Even if we get a few cases, we know we can deal with it, and still give the campers an amazing summer.

Speaking of normal, as I write this, campers are moving into cabins and tents, getting to know each other, and getting settled. We’ll look forward to a good night’s sleep, and a big day tomorrow. Our June-uary weather seems to have finally turned, just in time for the campers. Counselors, always a bit restless at the end of staff week, have found their purpose. All is as it should be.

I’m sure many of you are wondering how you check in on your camper while they’re here. There are several ways. I always like to lead with the good old fashioned letter. It is a dying art form, to be sure, but we’re doing a good job resurrecting it here in the summer. Letters to and from camp are beautiful – the tactile nature of it, the delay in delivery, the time it takes to sit and read or write one – all of it leads to letters being the perfect way for the in-camp and out-of-camp world to interact. All campers will write a postcard home during tomorrow morning’s breakfast, so you’ll be sure to get at least that. We’ll do a camp-wide nudge to write a few times during the session, but it can be difficult to verify that each camper has written home. The best way to get campers to write is write yourself, and ask questions – “What’s your favorite activity?” “Tell me about your counselor.” “Who’s your best friend at camp?” All these questions are great ways to get campers going. It can take some effort. Kids in 2022 have almost no practice in this form of communication, but the effort is worth it. If you haven’t gotten a letter and you’d like us to give your camper a specific nudge, just give us a call.

Other than letters, you’re reading one of the other ways you can learn about what’s going on at camp. I’ll post here once a week on Sundays. We’ll post daily on camp’s Twitter page (you don’t need to join Twitter if you’d prefer not to to get those updates, you can just go to the website). Finally, if you just need a verbal update on how your camper is doing, feel free to call our office. We’ll check on them and get back to you.

A word about homesickness: First of all, we wish they’d come up with a different word. Unlike our challenges of late, it’s not a virus. It’s a normal human feeling to miss home when you’re away. Adults feel it all the time. Kids have less experience with it, and tend to feel their feelings in bigger ways generally, so it can be more challenging for them to work through it. Our staff are well trained to help campers with homesickness, and most of it passes within a few days. If it doesn’t, we’ll be in touch to make sure you’re in the loop and also to get your advice and thoughts. If you’re concerned about homesickness, or even if you’re not but want to read a great book about what your camper is experiencing, we can’t recommend enough the book Homesick and Happy, by Dr. Michael Thompson.

Thank you for sharing your children with us this month. They’re off on an incredible adventure, building a wonderful community as we have here for 95 years now. We can’t wait to do it alongside them.