When I think summer, I think camp. In fact, it wasn’t until about two years ago, when I stopped working at Camp Cedarbrook, that I realized I didn’t have a non-camp summer wardrobe. My closet was full of fun pants, tie dye, crocs, and staff shirts with the occasional dress or nice top for day off. I remember thinking, what do people wear in the summer if they’re not hiking a mountain, building a fire, or jumping in a lake? It was the first time in almost 20 years that I was not going to be spending the majority of my summer at Camp.
Camp Cedarbrook was my home away from home. When I was 7 years old, my mom and dad packed up me, my two sisters, and my brother up and we set off for eight weeks to Camp. I remember that first drive up Davignon Road quite vividly, which is surprising, given that I was only seven years old at the time. I recall sitting in the back of the car squished between my two older sisters.
As the car slowly climbed up the dirt road, I couldn’t contain my excitement, stretching my body over my sisters to try and see out the window to be able to finally see the place I had been anticipating for months. How much longer? How much longer? Are we there? Are we there yet? I was certainly living up to all the stereotypes of youngest siblings and annoying little sisters. But the anticipation was too much for my seven-year-old body.
Flash forward 20 years, and I still have trouble containing my excitement as I drive up the bumpy road. I don’t think there will ever be a day when I don’t get butterflies driving up Davignon Road. This road leads to so many memories and to the place that was so foundational and transformational to my life. I was so blessed that I not only got to experience the joy of camp as an individual but also as part of a family. My dad, Buzz, worked as the maintenance man for many years and my mom, Guin was the Nature Specialist. Both my older sisters went through the CILT program and worked as counselors, becoming “Penny” and “Ozzie.” Even my brother helped out in the tuck shop or with my dad doing maintenance in middle school. My sister, Penny, also worked as the Explorer DD for many years.
One of the most special memories I have of camp is my own CILT graduation. My sister Penny gave me my CILT verse, which she had wood burned onto a painting of the waterfall. When she lit my candle, signifying my change from camper to staff, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I had thought about this pretty much since my first summer as a camper. I had lists of bird names from my second week before I was even old enough to be in a cabin.
But I also struggled with finding my own identity apart from my family. In fact, there was a summer that I didn’t go to camp. I wanted to be like the rest of my friends, spending the summers watching TV or travelling or just doing nothing. But during that summer, I felt incomplete — like something was missing. I longed for the friendships I had at camp. I missed the feeling of being known and seen by all those around me. I missed the pure, undistracted connection, the experiences with peers that can only come from living and learning together for a week in the woods. “Normal summer life” felt so abnormal. Camp had not only become a place I went to; it had become an integral part of my life and without it, I felt lost. But I needed that summer away to know that camp wasn’t just something I did because my family did it. It was a place that formed and shaped who I was and how I see the world.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t use a skill I learned or recall an aspect about my relationship with God that I didn’t learn at camp. Many of the major decisions I made in my life I made sitting on a log by the Cove or on the Dining Hall porch. I literally signed the contract for my first job after graduating college from the Bird House porch. It was the place where I learned to connect with God through the world He created for us. It was the place I was mentored by strong Christian women who guided me in my understanding of who God was and his love for me. It was the place I was able to mentor the next generation of strong, Christian women while learning more and more about God, even as I mentored others.
Often when I’m reading my Bible, I will find post-it notes from a campfire message I gave or a highlighted verse from a Bible Ex lesson or staff devotional. I have countless notes and letters from campers and fellow staff members offering an encouraging word or sharing a favorite verse. I read through these notes, cards, and letters at least once a year, and I am overwhelmed by the incredible support and love I received from my fellow sisters in Christ.
Camp not only enhanced my relationships with my biological family, but it also gave me a whole new spiritual family: a sisterhood of strong women who will have my back no matter what, who pray for me, love me, and support me — even from afar. That is the magic and the power of the camp family.
Hannah “Pixie” Plock is a proud Cedarbrook staff alumna! She worked as a counselor, drama and OLS specialist, and the Pathfinder Division Director for several years. She currently lives and works in NYC as a kindergarten teacher.