Sunday, July 17, 2011


"...And now Parents, it time to see your campers!" The announcement causes a flurry of commotion inside of Alumni Hall and out onto the gravel path on the front grass. A sea of mothers in skirts and floppy hats pushing alongside husbands with khaki shorts, visors and cameras bouncing around their necks, in a battle to locate their sons. This of course is visiting day at Camp Manutou, a sleep away camp located in Maine, where boys live side by side and spend eight weeks in a sports competition frenzy. This is where my son has been for the last three weeks and after spending the last hour touring the main hall and meeting other parents, we are anxious to get our visit on. 

I get separated from my wife as the crowd is rushing down the dirt path like its a half price sale at LL Bean. I am scanning the faces of boys as they walk up the path from their bunks, one by one dismissing each unfamiliar kid. Suddenly in a cacophony of shouts, my ears perk up as the word "Dad!" is parsed out from the constant stream of "dads" and my mind locks in to the exact fingerprint of my son's voice. My eyes quickly dart slightly left and now the visual matches the audio. In a shot my son races across the path and with no regard for what is in his way, makes a bee-line towards my body. In seconds his body explodes into mine, arms wrapping my body and his head drills into my chest. After a minute of silence, he looks up at me with big red teary eyes and says, "Hi Daddy..." 

"Hi sweet boy!" is my wife's greeting as she catches up to our embrace on the grass. My son removes one arm from around me and pulls his mommy in as we stand together like three trees twisting, standing in a field while their branches wrap around each other. The field is now silent and there are many bunches of trees standing together in simultaneous embrace. 

We finally separate and get in a good look at our boy. His hair is wavy long, and his face is golden tan. His hands are a bit dirty from the mornings activities and his nails are unevenly trim. His legs are like brown logs, bumpy and filled with scraps and bug bites. His feet are roughed up and he sports a bandage on his right big toe. "What happen to your toe?" My wife asks. "Oh that, I cut it on a rock" He fires off, not wanting to get into it.  A more rapid fire question and answer session ensues, "How are, you?"-"Fine"; How has camp been?"-"Great"; "Are you loving it?"-"Yes". After catching our breath, we make our way to Bunk 20D, my son's living quarters at the camp.  

We pull open the wooden screen door of Bunk 20D and step into the porch area. Along the knotty pine wall are three shelves filled with an assortment of footwear. Basketball, baseball, football, soccer, cleats, flip-flops, sliders, boots, and water shoes of every make, model, and size are lined up ready for action. In the corner are lacrosse and hockey sticks, baseball bats, golf clubs, even a bow. We step through the inner doorway and are now standing in the main part of the room. Walls of more knotty pine and four rows of wooden bunk beds. "My bed is over here." my son points to the third set of bunk beds on the left. We walk over and my son jumps into his bed. My wife and I crouch down beside the bed and take quick account of the conditions. "Looks comfortable." I say. My wife notices that there is no pillow case on the pillow which my son responds "I did not even notice..." We unload a few items we brought up from home, magazines, a few snacks and more stationary for letters. "Where are all the letters you got, I want to see them." My wife asks as she peeks in the drawers under the bed. "Here..." my son responds by lifting up the pillow and there sits a stack of letters, postcards and papers he has received. We inventory his supplies, and note what we will pick up for him before the day ends. The list includes a new fan, D batteries, a couple of new towels, and new ear buds for his nano. We survey the bathroom situation and decide he is still well stocked. 

We meet the three counselors assigned to Bunk 20D, who all say our son is their favorite (I am sure a line each parent gets to hear) but they also say how excited they are to see him bond so quickly with the other boys, as he is the only newbie in the bunk, the other boys have two, three or even four years vested in the camp. They describe our son as mellow, funny, good natured, not bashful, and simply a great kid to have living in the bunk. Those words sound just like our son and it made us proud of him for his accomplishments in the bunk and at Manitou. 

The camp makes an announcement regarding the events of the day, instructionals, a multitude of demonstrations, lunch, then a club show. My son chooses to go to his golf instructional so we leave Bunk 20D and stroll across the camp to the golf range. As we walk he describes all the sports he has been playing, the friends he met, scary stories from his counselors, and the food situation, easing down from the emotional peak of our visit and settling into a more comfortable state. After passing the tennis courts, a baseball field, the deck hockey rink, the football field, another baseball field, the climbing wall and the mountain bike shed we finally get to the golf range. There we meet up with his cousin, already whacking golf balls with a driver. My son grabs a club and a bucket of balls from the shed and slots into a driving lane. My wife and I sit on the wooden railing, descending from the peak as well of the morning's emotional greeting and just enjoy our son getting off a couple of crack shots, watching the ball rise high and soar into the air...

Look for Part 2 of Visitors Day when we spring the boys out of camp and into civilization. 


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