This week my two youngest kids are at church camp. It's not a huge deal considering we live a whole 20 minutes from the campgrounds, but they look forward to it like crazy every year. I always did, too. It's the camp I started going to back when girls and boys didn't camp together and you couldn't wear shorts in the tabernacle. Now it's one big ol‘ bowl of hormone soup with boys and girls galore. And while my generation took dresses and slacks for tabernacle, this generation is outfitted in athletic shorts and Chacos from sunup to sundown. As one friend put it, “There are probably a lot of Southern Baptist preachers just a spinnin’ in their graves now that shorts are allowed in the tabernacle!” It's during camp week every year that I miss being a youth minister the most. Even with the perpetually dirty feet, a severe lack of deodorant amongst the campers, and at least one kid who thinks pranks are awesome, I still miss it something fierce.
When I was a camper I started making a wardrobe list the week school let out. I carefully coordinated each outfit right down to the earrings and twist-beads. I begged Mom to drag my suitcase out weeks ahead of time so I could make sure everything was going to fit. I knew I had passed some of this down to Kady the year I walked in to find her making a clothing database for camp on the computer. Different time, different application, same quirk. Mom started a tradition back in the 80’s with Sis and me – she would throw frugality out the window and buy us travel-sized cans of shaving cream just for camp. We looked forward to the day she’d present them to us because that meant CAMP WAS ALMOST HERE. So when I had teen campers of my own I, too, started throwing frugality out the window and buying tiny cans of shaving cream, too. It kills me to spend more on those tiny cans, but my kids have come to anticipate them just like we did, so there's no way I can stop.
Sam just got back from a trip to Louisville, KY, last Saturday and turned around Monday and left for camp. You might think that would make packing easier, but it was different clothes altogether. Louisville needed nicer clothes, camp needed things he could get muddy in since he's on the Rec crew. Sunday night he was in the kitchen floor with clothes strewn everywhere, in borderline meltdown mode, asking my opinion on outfits which he would normally not care two whits about. And then there was Kady – the database from her younger years a mere memory. The child was on her bed with a bag of spicy Doritos in her lap, her phone in hand, her best friend and cousin giggling like maniacs beside her, clothes and bags and towels were stacked all over the room. I nearly had a heart attack. Abby just walked through the house grumbling that she never made such a mess when she packed for camp. I marvel at how three kids with the exact same DNA donors can be so vastly different.
I briefly saw the kids Wednesday when I delivered 19 large Sonic drinks to the Rec crew, our sponsors, and my own kids. I walked into the girls dorm and was hit with the smell of shampoo, humidity, splooshy, squishy floors, every styling product known to womankind scattered across every surface and was hit was nostalgia. Camp is a part of who I was as a kid, even as an adult for a few years as a sponsor, but it goes deeper than just memories. That camp is sacred ground, a holy place – whether the kids are in dresses or athletic shorts. God is there. He's there amidst the dust, the sweat, the smell of sunscreen, and the competitions on the rec field, becoming a part of this generation as well. It's definitely more than just camp.