(Before I begin don’t panic about the lack of social distancing in the photo, this was taken on the last day of camp last summer. Left to Right: Hunter, Mikey, Josh [me])
I hope you’ve had a fun, responsible, and mask-wearing Fourth of July! As I’m writing this, it’s the kind of day I lived for when I was a camper. Mid 70’s, not too humid, partly cloudy, but the kind where the sun plays peekaboo with the clouds, just enough that my pale skin didn’t fry like a fish, (not that my mom would ever allow me to leave the house without SPF 50 sunblock caked all over me). Anyway, it’s days like today that make me really nostalgic about my own camp friends, and the impact that Sewataro had on us.
When I grew up, I was a talkative, but anxious child. I loved to meet new people, but was always a bit nervous about what people thought of me. Perhaps your camper is not unlike me in that way. I strongly credit Camp Sewataro with helping me overcome my childhood anxiety, and giving me the confidence and self esteem I needed to succeed in the world. I know my mom used to worry about me making friends, and learning social skills. In actuality, she had nothing to worry about. I’ve made many friends here over the years, but for today let me tell you the story about two of them, and then I’ll tell you a bit about why, despite our world being so different right now, Camp Sewataro has remained perfect in their recipe for life-long friendships like ours.
Mikey was the kind of kid everyone wanted to be friends with. In contrast to my personality, Mikey was confident, an elite athlete, and above all else, had great enthusiasm. He was the kind of person who could score the winning goal in soccer, then immediately go up and shake the goalie’s hand, (that last part won’t happen this summer, but maybe a socially distanced salute instead). His mom, Marie, used to be the camp assistant nurse, and since they lived right near us, would give me a ride home every day after camp. Mikey and his family were always welcoming to me, and I still think fondly back on the car conversations we had about our fun experiences from the day. Even all these years later, Mikey and I still joke about when I broke my wrist, (twice), or when we were counselors and Mikey had a controversial Green Gizmo foul play involving him flipping a whip cream pie in my face. He and I were both from Sudbury, and despite never being in the same classes in elementary school, we certainly saw a lot of each other through sports and the cafeteria. Yet if it wasn’t for Sewataro he may have been just another acquaintance or passerby in my life. Instead, as a result of Camp Sewataro, I saw Mikey this morning, and we chatted as we do every camp morning, albeit now with more distance between us and masks on our faces. Though we both had our own different friend groups in high school, and later went off to different colleges, (Mikey is at UMass Amherst, while I’m in Worcester at Clark university), we always remained close with one another, and kept in touch throughout the year. But when we got to camp, no time had passed since the previous summer. Something about our shared love of sports, inside jokes that were built from adventures we’d had, and memories we had made brought us back to camp, and back to each other, year after year. I’m very thankful for that closeness.
Hunter was another unique figure in my life. Hunter is from Winchester, and started at Sewataro in 2006, (one year after myself, and one year before Mikey). Hunter was a passionate baseball fan as a kid, and our shared love of the Red Sox brought us together. For the first few summers, we were good friends at camp, but then went our separate ways throughout the school year. Around Summer ‘08, Hunter and I finally asked our parents to schedule a play-date. We never looked back. Hunter’s family has become like family to me, and I would hope he feels the same about mine. We had our Bar-Mitzvahs the same day, and I literally went straight from mine to his, (as did Mikey and a few of our other Sewataro friends). We’ve gone to baseball games with our families together in Washington D.C., celebrated our highs in life together, and been there for each other through the lows. We’re family to one another, and family looks after each other. One thing has always remained constant: Camp. Every time Hunter has slept over at my house it feels like we stay up until the wee hours of the morning reminiscing on old camp-mates, counselors, special events, activities, and anything else that we can think of related to camp. Even as we get older, and start to move on in our lives, we’ve still found ways to keep camp a part of us, and to keep that special bond that drew us together some fifteen years ago.
Summer 2019 was set to be the last for each of us. We thought for sure our summers of wholesome, fun, camp magic would be replaced by suits, quarterly reports, computer screens, and desks. (OK, so technically by working in the office, I still have a computer screen, but you get the point.) Instead…we all came back. While obviously COVID-19 may not have been the reason we expected, (internships got cancelled, travel got cancelled), Mikey said it best, “Camp Sewataro is the silver lining of all of this.” He’s not wrong, as I truly would have had a piece of my summer missing if I were anywhere but here. Mikey finally transitioned from being a group head to a sports counselor, while Hunter is now a head counselor for one of our senior camp groups. And as I’m sure you’re aware by now, I’ve finally moved from six years of tennis to the office, where I do newsletters, and share my stories with all of you!
Now, you may ask: “Josh, your life story is fine and all, but how does it affect my camper?” Well, if I’ve learned anything from my many years, it’s to never take little friendships for granted, because those little friendships turn into big ones. Camp Sewataro has a funny way of uniting people. Maybe two kids discovering they both love crafts, leads to conversations, leads to asking their parents to schedule a play-date, (or a zoom call this year), leads to keeping in touch throughout the year, leads to memories next year, leads to…well, a friend for life. I see it all the time. Even from the office I still see those first seeds that will grow into something more taking place. I love this camp, deeply and passionately. And I love seeing campers find their own Mikeys and Hunters.