I’ve actually been thinking a fair amount about remembering lately.
I’m a documenter; I keep journals and letters and obsessively hold on to scraps of paper — birthday cards, concert programmes, the occasional grocery list — that mean something to be. Usually their meaning is actually more of a function. I collect and curate bits and pieces that unlock memories for me.
This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the summer camp I attended as a child (and for many years as staff, as well). I can’t make it to the celebratory luncheon, but I’ve enjoyed seeing old pictures go up on facebook — many of them from many years before I was born. Former campers and staff members have been commenting with what they remember, trying to identify years and camps and faces in these pictures of what camp looked like in years gone by.
For about the first six or seven years I went to camp — starting the summer I was nine — I kept a special journal that was just for writing down things about camp: what cabin I was in, who my counsellor was, the craft we did, the memory verses we (supposedly) memorized, who else was in my cabin with me, and then the special memories of what I said and did and saw. Looking back on those entries I remember those things, and usually the context around them. I’m glad that I wrote those things down.
What I really remember when I think about camp as a child, though, is not so much what I did, but the feeling of being there. It was a breathless, golden feeling — where a week seemed about a month long and anything could happen. Camp was so far removed from my very urban regular life that it seemed almost to be contained in (or perhaps to contain) its own universe. Being at camp had its own special magic.
And so more than the activities, the songs, or the things I learned, that breathless, magic, golden out-of-timeness is what I remember. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
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