One of my good friends recently announced that he and another good friend are engaged. The wedding will be sometime next year, God willing.
They met at a camp. It was a week long camp for youth. Christian. Anyone ever heard of Awana? The camp used to be Awana camp until it got served with a lawsuit (molestation charges, if I remember correctly. Pretty bad for a Christian camp) and had to shut down the camp. But then, the lawsuit didn’t say that they couldn’t operate under another name, so that’s what they did. They became RBGY camp. (Red Blue Green Yellow. Why? I don’t know.) They just no longer affiliated themselves or were run by people who got paid by the Awana organization.
But back when the camp was still Awana and not RBGY, my friends met each other. (I met them there, in fact.) They became great friends. Then they fell in love. And this past Saturday, on Memorial weekend, he proposed to her on top of Mt. Monadnock, which coincidentally is a short walk from the camp site.
A lot of things happened at that camp. That camp was the first chance for me, a homeschooled kid, to spread my wings and get to know people without having to be around my family. It was my first shot at building friendships, and while most of my new friends never really kept in touch with me, it was a great feeling. I remember getting a roommate who was terribly homesick for the first three days of camp. She cried easily. In spite of that, we were great friends and hung out a lot. I also remember the older kid who painted his nails black. The counselors made him borrow a friend’s nail polish remover.
I also remember not wanting to go home afterwards.
And then I graduated to the high school kids’ section. My first year, I had two particularly pretty roommates. One of them changed her clothes every five minutes, and would carefully arrange her glossy dark brown hair just so, to give the appearance that it was just slightly messy and that she hadn’t just spent 15 minutes on her hair. The other one had a smooth, perfectly tanned body. In our room, she would pull up her T-shirt and tuck it up so that it would be a cropped shirt. So much against the dress code, but still… she could totally pull it off.
I remember another girl who wasn’t especially beautiful. I mean, she didn’t look like Gisele Bundchen or even one of those magazine cover people or even what people think is beautiful. But she was special. I think her name was Danielle. The boys liked her, and, being ignorant and all of 12 years old, I couldn’t understand them. One guy bashfully asked her to sit at the banquet (end of week, closest to dating you’ll ever get at a camp like that) with him. Danielle turned him down. Another guy asked. She turned him down, too. Then the son of the camp’s game director expressed an interest in her. He signed up a buddy to help him row a canoe into the middle of the lake, with her sitting in said canoe and making small talk with him. “So, how about it? Would you like to go sit in a canoe with me?” Danielle said yes. They went.
The same girl was an accident magnet. She sprained her ankle (or something close to it), and then got bitten by a horsefly. Then along came bonfire night (spill your confessions, what God taught you, resolutions to do better, etc) and Danielle said, “This week at camp was really…” (at this point, a spark flew toward her face) “…ow.”
Finally, I remember a particular year where everything seemed to go wrong. That was the year they ceased to be Awana and became RBGY. As a result, much of the management was new, including the game director. And the games were extremely competitive.
That year, there was a kid whose name I forgot. Shame, but he was really an awesome person once you got to know him, in spite of first impressions. But this kid had a lot to work through. I don’t remember the details, but he wasn’t an especially happy kid.
Anyway, people got mad at each other during the games (did I mention they were extremely competitive?), screamed at each other, and swore at each other. It was that bad. The said kid somehow found himself involved in a lot of it. (Let’s call him Elijah rather than “said kid.”) It’s not about whether it was Elijah’s fault or no, he just hadn’t learned how to control his temper. And… he didn’t like a lot of people and said so.
Then Elijah said, “I like Abby. She’s a cool person.”
It was a year when emotions were fried, when people lost patience with each other. But the sharing during that last night… that was phenomenal. In spite of all the things that went wrong, there was still a strong sense of connection and belonging. People felt that God had touched them that week. And that that simple touch had brought them to their knees in awe.
Unfortunately, that was the last year I ever went to that camp. I wonder what happened to Elijah, even now. It’s been a while.
But those memories are going to stay with me for a good long time, possibly forever.
My engaged friends are going to remember it as the place where they first met each other.
What places evoke memories in you?