Unplanned camp reunions are something special

High school reunions are affairs known for being dreaded or skipped altogether, but summer camp reunions often have the opposite effect on people.

Maybe it’s because you don’t spend enough time with camp friends in the summer to get sick of them or dread reuniting with them like so many people from high school. Or maybe it’s just that the experiences of summer camp are more meaningful when viewed through the passage of time than four years of high school.

Either way, I love the informal summer camp reunions that happen from time to time like one that happened for me in the Poconos last month.

I was at Mont Lawn Camp in Bushkill helping my brother out on a retreat with his youth group and had a chance to reconnect with a friend of ours from our camp days (at a different camp in New Jersey). She is married to the camp’s director and has three kids who are living out her lifelong dream of growing up at camp. While we were there another camp friend who was also from New Jersey but had moved to Bushkill (of all places) two years earlier came by for a visit with his three kids.

Jolddelancocampphotoust like that, there the four of us were hanging out for the first time in two decades catching each other up on all the missed time – the military tours overseas, the moves to Texas, Arizona, Kentucky and Pennsyvlania, the kids and more.

It wasn’t awkward like so many random encounters with people we knew in high school can be (it gets weird enough sometimes with people I enjoyed being around in high school).

That’s the beauty of camp. Instead of swapping memories about teachers or friends who overdosed on drugs or got locked up for car theft, the memories are of a special moment in time at a special place when we were sitting around a campfire singing songs, playing silly games or talking about how ready we were to graduate from high school.

It’s not that these things don’t happen outside of camp; it’s just that the camp environment makes the memories somehow taste sweeter and feel less embarrassing. Perhaps it’s because they are tied to a place that has an address but might as well exist only in a safe place in our minds where the painful rejection and awkwardness of being an adolescent or the frustrations of trying to remember a locker combination or get to the bus stop on time can’t penetrate.

Though I have lots of camp friends I’ve made as an adult, I haven’t done a great job of keeping in touch with my friends I went to camp with, but I look forward to the future impromptu camp reunions and the fond memories that are unearthed every time I see someone from my camp days.

 

Matt Ralph

Matt Ralph

I'm the editor of Summer Camp Culture and also blog at Tangzine.com and MatthewRalph.com. I live in the Philadelphia area and went to camps and camp meetings growing up in Ohio, Maryland and New Jersey.

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