Growing up, my brother and I were your typical siblings. We communicated through punches, shoving, yelling, and eventually one of us getting in trouble (usually me, the ole’ “you’re older, you should know better,” routine). But, something was different when late June rolled around. We knew we were about to embark on our favorite 7.5 weeks of the year. The 7.5 weeks where we were on our own without our parents, thrust into a universe where our home life was a distant memory, except for one thing, we had each other.
Every night before the first day of camp we rolled out the cot from my closet, set the bed next to mine, and had our once a year “sleepover.” This was a tradition we had set since 1998 (my first year of camp - before Jordan even started attending camp himself). Jordan was always interested in camp. He started 3 years after I did (you had to be at least 8 to go, so his eager 5 year old self wasn’t getting in), but interrogated me constantly throughout the year about what happened in those fairytale spaces.
When the cot was set, we popped in the VHS of the camp video from the year before, and watched until we accidentally drifted off to sleep. We never made it through the full 3 hour video, to our dismay. We’d wake up in the morning new people, and we knew it. We had taken off the armor of the winter months, and shed our skin like butterflies, morphing into our camp selves.
Camp was the place where we escaped all that was home life, and became a more honest version of ourselves. For Jordan and I, it was almost like an alternate universe role play. It was the place where we stepped out of the persona of the fighting siblings, and stepped into our greatest performance, the role of sibling comrades, and the only ones who knew exactly how the last 10 months had been in our lives.
As the buses departed from the Macy’s parking lot, we waved to our parents (sometimes ran so quickly on the bus that we didn’t even say goodbye to them), and were ushered off into our happy place.
We had arrived. I rocked back in forth in my Crazy Creek chair at the first all-camp gathering excitingly waiting for some of the directors to take the stage. The energy in the room was palpable. I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Jordan, asking if he could sit in my lap. I knew I was home.
Years later in 2012, my brother died by suicide. It was the hardest thing I've ever dealt with, and for a while I was lost trying to figure out how I would make sure he was with me every day, though he wasn't physically with me anymore.
In 2017, I was talking to one of my best friends and she recommenced I look into Experience Camps, as she knew camp had always been an important piece of me, and especially as it relates to the way I remember my brother. I volunteered in 2018 at CalEx, and knew I had found my people, my place, and the perfect way to not only help keep Jordan's memory alive, but to also pay it forward.
Camp provides so much for so many children, and especially those who have experienced trauma, loss, or any other type of hardship. I’m so unbelievably grateful to be embarking on my newest adventure, as the National Program Manager of Experience Camps.
This job is going to let me morph into my camp self for good, and I plan to carry my sibling comrade with me every step of the way.