The sleepaway camp I go to is a very special place for me. It’s my home away from home. It’s where I get to see all my closest friends for the best three weeks of the whole year.
The necklace I wear every day is very common at my camp, and it’s called a tree of life. It teaches me a very important lesson, day in and day out. It helped me realize that even though you might not be at the place you truly call your home, it is always kept close to your heart.
The Warmth Inside
It was the coldest and foggiest day of the whole three-week term. Gray clouds coated the sky like a huge and saddening blanket. It seemed as if you never woke up to the shining sun on closing day.
As we all got out of bed, nobody had a smile on their face. After adjusting to life in the mountains, it was hard to imagine home; the people and places I was normally so familiar with. My heart was beating so fast and felt like a hammer smacking me with each heartbeat. I slipped on my sweatshirt and walked up the long flight of 64 stairs to the dining hall for the very last time.
On closing day they serve better food than usual because they think it is going to distract you from the fact that you’re leaving. It never works. As everyone sits down, they’re all trying to hide the tears in their eyes.
Suddenly I catch the eyes of my friend Lucy. She mouthed the words, “I wish we could stay longer.” I mouthed back, “I don’t want to leave you.”
The Best of Friends
Lucy and I had gotten to be very close friends that year. Our tents were next to each other, and we had signed up for some classes together, so as you can imagine, we didn’t want to leave each other after camp. She lives on the opposite side of the country as me, so I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could.
She has light brown hair and brown eyes, and is easily the nicest and kindest person I know. Every second that went by meant less time to spend with her. I was dreading the minute she would leave me. And little did I know it would be the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to say.
Soon breakfast was brought out, but nobody ate very much. All I could think about was how much I was going to miss the old chairs and the woody smell of the Dining Hall, singing the Senior Camp and Midway songs in the Play Hall, and the sounds of rifles firing up on the Rifle Range.
I’d never forget paddling down the river with my friend Catherine during Canoeing, crying at 16s Campfire, and running up and hugging all my friends the second I saw them on Opening Day. But most of all, I was going to miss the people I knew I could tell anything to, the ones that I wasn’t afraid to be myself in front of.
Imagine being pried away from your home and your family. That’s what it feels like to leave.
Goodbye for Now
“It’s that time ladies!” said the camp director’s voice over the loudspeaker. Then came all of the collective, “Awwws,” and, “Noooos,” from the campers.
“But thank you for an amazing first term 2017! Here are the names of the Bethesda bus riders…” She continued to call the names, and when she called Lucy’s name it felt like someone punched me in the stomach.
I got up as fast as I could and stopped Lucy right in front of the door. We looked each other right in the eyes and that’s when we both lost it. Tears poured down my face and I hugged her as tight as I could, knowing I wouldn’t get to for another 49 weeks.
“Lucy please don’t leave me,” I choked out.
“I don’t want to. I’m gonna miss you so much,” she said.
“Okay ladies, please make your way out of the Dining Hall and meet the bus chaperone on the Hill.” said the camp director.
I hugged Lucy one last time, tighter than I ever had before. When she finally had to go, we said our goodbyes. I couldn’t stop crying. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t hold back the tears. All I could think about was the 3,000 miles separating us outside of camp.
Eventually they got through all the buses, and the day that followed was long and hard. One by one, all of my friends left.
The second I got in the car I started to cry. This was it. I was leaving for good — not like the time a week before when we went off campus for a caving trip. Even though it was only a week ago, it still felt like it had been a long time.
Slowly tears began to fall down my face, and when my mom asked what was wrong I could only think of one thing:
“I miss camp,” I said through the tears.
As we pulled out of the parking lot, I got one last glimpse of camp. And all I could think of was how lucky I am to get to go to such an amazing and beautiful place that has helped me to become the person I am today.
My Tree of Life
We finally pulled out onto a main road and made our way to nearby downtown Lewisburg, West Virginia. I was slightly happy for one reason only — I was going to go and buy a tree of life. When we walked into the store I barely got a word out before the woman working there said,
“ They’re right here.”
She knew exactly what I was looking for, and as I gazed upon all of the little silver necklaces, I saw the one I knew was perfect. At my camp, a tree of life pendant is a very common piece of jewelry to see, and just looking at one of the necklaces made all of the amazing memories of the three weeks come back to me.
I knew the necklace would always help me to remember the most important place in my life that has taught me so many things.
My camp has taught me how to be confident, make new friends, and learn leadership and teamwork. But most importantly, it taught me that goodbyes aren’t always forever. I get to see each and every one of my friends again the next year, and if not then, even sooner, and I can’t ask for anything more.
My home will always stay near my heart.
–Kalle Masci, Camper, Camp Alleghany for Girls