I recently visited my old camp which I haven’t visited since 2005, the summer after I got done with high school. I remember, that at that time my mom was getting sicker and sicker, so while I was away at camp, my brother stayed home with her.
Camp for me wasn’t a “typical” experience. The campsite hosts several kinds of camps including ones for kids and teens, one for seniors and one for families. The first time our family went was when my brother and I were 11, and we went to Family camp with our mom.
This year, I went alone to the Family camp. In some ways it was wonderful — the director remembered me and my family, so we were able to reminisce about the time we all came together. It felt comforting and so familiar to drive into the camp, to be surrounded by nature and to be reminded of what it’s like to feel like nothing has changed. (I even adopted a baby bunny, which to be honest if my mom were still around she would have hated it!)
But in all the ways going to camp felt familiar, it was also tinged with a bittersweet feeling. I saw people I’d met for the first time with my mom by my side and stepped onto a place that felt unchanged, even when the rest of my life was anything but.
I left the camp with a sense of security, knowing that there’s a place — somewhere in the world (somewhere in my province!) — where I can go and feel….almost whole, almost like I was before everything changed forever, almost like the full, authentic me.
It’s interesting to think of just how much I feel defined by my loss.
There is a pre-2007 me and a post-2007 me. Both the same in so many ways, while being so significantly different in others. I know I can never go back to pre-2007 me, but accepting that pre-2007 me died with my mom is painful.
Post-2007 me has new hurdles to jump over. The pain for post-2007 me is knowing that I won’t be able to share these new experiences with my mom.
Going back to my old camp after all this time though reminded me there’s a bit of gray where both pre and post can exist. It’s virtually impossible to feel 100% complete, but at camp this was the closest I’d come since losing my mom. It took me a long time to face a place that I associated with my ‘old life’ but now that I finally did, I felt kind of safe.