Our Last Visitor’s Day; “All Good Things Must Come To An End”
Yesterday was bittersweet. It was a day filled with lots of excitement and joy for me but at the same time it was also filled with some sadness and sorrow too (oh and lets not forget the rain). You see, for close to a decade now we have been sending our kids to sleepaway camp every summer and as our ‘baby’ (who turns 16 very soon) enters the next phase of camp life next summer by becoming a counsellor, we as parents are no longer entitled to the privilege of Visitor’s Day.
Visitor’s Day for me has always been a special day and I still remember the very first time I entered those campgrounds as a parent since leaving there more than 20 years earlier as a camp counsellor. So much of the camp had changed in all those years in between but when I took a closer look around the camp that very first Visitor’s Day I realized it really hadn’t changed at all. It was still the same great place only better; not better because they had added so many new features and activities like a beautiful new basketball court, a rock climbing wall or an outdoor ball hockey rink; it wasn’t better because the cabins had all been painted and new built-in bunk beds had been added; no it was even better now because my own children were there and about to embark on their own journey towards creating some of the most extraordinary memories and friendships of their lives just as I was once privileged in experiencing all those years ago.
Sleepaway camp happened gradually and not all at once though in our home, in fact our eldest was the last of our children to join the Camp Northland family as he chose to play Rep baseball for the better part of his childhood (but has never looked back since). But regardless of when they started, one thing is for certain; camp has since become the happiest place on earth for all three of my kids and when the end comes it will unquestionably be met with a lot of heartache.
Every year since they began spending their summers at their home away from home I looked forward with great anticipation to Visitor’s Day. When they were younger I not only got to spend the afternoon relaxing with my kids as they excitedly led us to their cabins, introduced us to their counsellors and new friends and showed us all the fun activities they got to participate in everyday, but I also got to reminisce and share with them some enjoyable anecdotes and memories of my time I spent strolling through those same amazing campgrounds.
Visitor’s Day has changed throughout the years as my kids got older, especially as their roles began to change. Two of them have since become counsellors and as I mentioned earlier this will be our last summer that any of them will be campers at all and even though they don’t necessarily need us to engage in our Visitor’s Day rituals and traditions anymore, I know they still welcome us there with open arms, as do so many of their friends and mentors.
As much as Visitor’s Day means so much to me though, it has also become a very difficult day for me both leading up to and participating in it throughout my journey over the last four years. In several ways it heightens many of my struggles I encounter daily with depression and anxiety but this year with the realization that it was also the end of an era it made me want to reminisce even more, it made me want to breathe in the beauty that surrounded me even more and it made me want to ensure that this was the most memorable Visitor’s Day even more.
It didn’t seem to matter that it was damp and raining off and on all afternoon, all that truly mattered were the memories my kids were collecting in their hearts and the food they were storing in their bellies (lol) so that one day they too will hopefully get to excitedly stroll through those same campgrounds with their own children reminiscing about their happiest place on earth, but for now as I reminisce about my last Visitor’s Day I will have to learn to accept that “all good things must come to an end”.