It’s officially fall in Baltimore — one of my favorite times of year as the leaves change from green to beautiful shades of orange and deep red.
All around us we can see signs of nature slowing down and preparing for its long winter slumber. However, in our house, fall is anything but a time of slowing down. My calendar is jammed packed with various sporting events and back to school nights. Sometimes I feel like my primary purpose is to shuttle my children wherever they need to be, which is apparently everywhere!
This time of year the back seat of my car becomes the family hub — it’s where my children change from their school uniforms into tennis attire, do their homework as they watch a sibling play soccer or unfortunately, where they sometimes eat a meal when we’re running late to dance practice!
I find myself wondering how we so quickly got thrown from our lazy days of summer into this fast-paced rat race that we seem to be running daily.
Very rarely, between my husband’s travel schedule and the kids’ activities, we will have a chance to sit down, take a breath and spend time as a family. Inevitably, when these moments occur, one of our children will bring up a vivid memory of our family time spent together each summer at Family Camp at Camp Alleghany for Girls.
Family Camp affords our family with so many things that we’re simply unable to do during the rest of the year. And the most important, by far, is time. Uninterrupted time together.
Sure, the kids run off to play Gaga Ball with their favorite counselors or disappear into a tent to paint fingernails. And we, as parents, certainly get our share of “adult time” complete with corn hole tournaments and pickle ball. However, we still lay together in the same 14’ x 14’ platform tent every night as we gaze up at the breathtaking West Virginia stars.
It’s these moments together in a small space where I feel like we have our best family conversations. We finally have time to really talk. As busy as Family Camp can be for me, I make sure I carve out time to spend one on one with each child because, at camp, it’s easy to find the time!
Sights and Sounds
My daughter inevitably drags me into the Arts and Crafts Lodge, where I take a breath and enjoy watching her and countless other children enjoying space where they can be messy and creative and ultimately, where they can just be children.
My oldest son and I usually spend time at my old stomping ground – the Rifle Range. He comes bounding over to show me targets he is so proud of that I often find them reappearing mid-winter on a desk or a bed somewhere in my home. Maybe he pulls these targets out when his middle school life feels crazy as a reminder of the simplicity of our time together each summer.
My youngest son rushes me into the waters of the Greenbrier River where he spends hours and endless giggles sneaking up behind me and pretending to be a snake. He succeeds at least once, which gives him fodder for the following 51 weeks of the year.
My husband unplugs as best as he’s able and I will often find him sitting over a game of backgammon with a friend he rarely has time to see during the rest of the year or floating down the river in a canoe with one of our children – no work meeting or deadline on his mind.
And, of course, Family Camp gives me time to catch up with my dear camp friends, new and old, who are so important to me. It would be impossible to convey through simple words how much these people mean to me. We have time to sit and laugh for hours, or to talk about our worries and fears that we save for our dear, trustworthy camp friends who have time to listen for as long as we need.
It’s because of this wonderful, quality, and uninterrupted time with my both my biological and camp families that I come back home rejuvenated and energized to face the rat race of fall that lies ahead.
Time. It is so precious and yet so hard to catch hold of as we all barrel through our days filled with work deadlines, carpool shuttling, and child-rearing. We rarely have time to just be. Be with family. Be with friends. Be with ourselves. I feel like one of the lucky ones, who knows a place where time standstill….even if it’s just for a week.
It’s called Family Camp.
— Natalie Litz Bissonnette, Alum, Camp Alleghany for Girls