Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The last of the camp entries

'Seems I've been writing about this alot lately. I'll move away from it after this and back to Troubled_Waters.

In the fall of 1984 a friend twisted my arm into attending a Christian Retreat. I really didn't want to go, but she wouldn't take no for an answer, so I packed my bags and got on board a bus bound for a campground a 125 miles from the college I was attending. I couldn't think of anything more boring than spending forty-eight hours with a bunch of people who with nothing more interesting to do than take their bibles on a camping trip. I was certainly no party girl, but I wasn't exactly spending Saturday nights alone.

On the first morning, a group of us went for a hike. Someone thought it would be nifty-cool to explore an area a mile or so off the path. One of the people on that hike was a guy who was a little older than the rest of us. Someone told me was an ex-marine who had decided to try college for the fun of it. We meandered through what seemed like miles of trees, up hills and down through hollows. Naturally we got lost. For a while the guys debated what direction go while the girls stood around and waited for them. I finally got tired of listening to it and took off in the direction that made the most sense to me. The group came after me, trying to stop me from "making it worse." The ex-marine was the only one who didn't say anything. We emerged from the woods a little later at the edge of the campground, right where we'd started from. (City kids . . .)

Every evening we gathered around an ancient chimney with rows of benches facing it. By the light of the campfire we'd sit there and play guitars and sing and share our thoughts about God. I'd known God since childhood, but there at that chimney I found his heart and learned how to worship. I also got to know a lot of those people and learned that they were anything but boring--or perfect for that matter.

The night of the ill-fated hike, during one of these gatherings, the ex-marine sat down next to me on one of those benches and said gruffly, "You know, I'm getting tired of you following me around. I wish you'd stop." Genuinely concerned that he'd spotted me watching him, I was too embarrassed to fire back. I just flushed and kept on singing. A minute later he tried again. "Do you really know all these songs?" I couldn't help but notice that despite his deadpan expression, his eyes crinkled at the corners in the faintest of smiles and he smelled of Old Spice. I stumbled through the next few lines of lyrics unable to think about anything but him sitting next to me. I was strangely disappointed when they moved everyone around to play a game later on and I didn't have another chance to talk to him.

The camp I staff during the summer just happens to take place at this very same campground. It's the same place both my sons just returned from and they've brought home memories of their own. My twelve year old found the nerve to dance with his first real girl there last June (with a little push from me) and this year asked the same girl to go to with him to another dance. He also acted as the go-between his shy younger brother and another little girl so they would both have someone to dance with. I'll take my Mom to that chimney tomorrow to play Moria Kelly for the kids on those benches.

It's as though I've traveled hundreds of miles over the last twenty-three years only to wind up right where I started.

The ex-marine wants to renew our vows in front of that chimney on our 20th. I think that's a fine idea as long as he doesn't try and take our wedding guests for a hike.


Scotty said...

Love it, Mary - it brought a smile to my face this morning.


Mary O. Paddock said...

Thanks Scotty