Some time in the early 1900’s, my great grandfather, a traveling minister, became friends with one of the owners of Rich Brothers Lumber Company (Mr. Rich) while he ministered to the loggers clear cutting the Adirondack Mountains. The friendship resulted in a gift from Mr.Rich. It was a piece of land on a river in the Adirondacks with the cabin that had been used by loggers. We affectionately call this cabin on the Oswegatchie, Camp. (Disclosure – The story of how Camp came to be is documented somewhere, but I prefer the oral history version. As such, please pardon small inaccuracies or familial differences of opinion. This is the story currently in my brain, so this is what you’re getting). I was born in June and made my first trip to Camp that same summer. I have only been unable to go one summer since.
There have been few changes made to Camp. There is another cabin, a boat house, a few outhouses and the cabin next door belongs to my mothers cousin and her family. In the last few years our cabins have been equipped with pseudo running water, but for the most part it remains a very rustic cabin in the woods. I returned from my annual trip to Camp on Tuesday with bug bites the size of quarters. Why would I go to a place with no running water, outhouses, and bugs that leave giant bites, you ask? Because its beautiful, because I spent large parts of my childhood summers there, the memories are strong and because it is the one place my large family flocks to with any sort of regularity. The last week of July and the first week of August are like a family reunion. I bring books to read, I swim, I take boat rides down the river and into Cranberry Lake, I ride my bike with my nieces and cousins and I visit with family I haven’t seen since the year before, and in some cases longer. This year I went to a massive kickball game my cousins and some families in town have been organizing every summer.
There is a peace and love associated with Camp that may be based more on memory at this point, but I go every year anyway. The air smells cleaner, the rain falls faster, my clothes get dirtier and I rejoice at bathing in a cold, cold river. For a few days, anyway. I’ve changed and my family has changed and every year we come together and relearn the quirks that we all have and it is a wonderful and frustrating experience every time. But as I sit on the front porch reading my book or chatting with an aunt or uncle, I remember my grandmother and grandfather here, the childhood friends I made that I only saw when at Camp, the roasting of marshmallows, spending whole days swimming, camping with my dad on an island down the lake, the taste of bullheads and pancakes for breakfast, the smell of grandpa starting the early morning fire in the wood stove on damp days, and then everything shifts and Camp is, for that moment, the way it always has been.
And that is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.