Summer Camp

In what feels like a wisp of memory, Dylan has gone from a tiny living being cradled in my palms, to  a young man heading off to camp with his classmates from Dr. Clark.  He is wrapping up nine years in this school, and I can't imagine the things he must be feeling and thinking with the final day in sight.

For the next five days, this collection of teenagers will get a healthy dose of independence, adventure, sleep deprivation, unexpected surprises, and all the shades of grey between exuberant fun and abject misery.  Summer camp is a rite of passage, the demarcation line between getting older and growing up. In a way, I'm envious and intrigued by what he'll experience at the Circle Square Ranch near Halkirk in Central Alberta.  In another way, I'm comfortable in the ignorance, happy that he will be able to create his own toolkit of secrets, misadventures, and stories to recall in the decades to come.

I was around Dylan's age when I went on my first "camp" adventure.  It was to Fort San, near Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan. A former sanatorium, the idyllic spot nestled in the Qu'Appelle Valley was home to the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts for 36 years, before it closed in 1991 due to lack of funding.

All that remains of that week are fragments of memory, of being woken up every morning by incredibly loud jazz music, discovering white cream soda, and exploring the bizarre world of Fort San, a self-contained community, reputed to be the most haunted piece of real estate in the province.

Of course, those days spawned an essential boyhood crush, though the object of my affections remains elusive.  I can't remember her name or see her face, but I seem to recall she was from Regina.

It was a big deal to be away from home on my own.  All of a sudden, I was responsible for everything: getting up, getting fed, figuring out my schedule, filling free time, and everything in between.  I find it interesting that the bookends of the experience are completely lost.  There is no memory of how I got there or how I got home.  Those memories are much clearer for the trips that came later, to Toronto for the International Band Festival, to Quebec for my cultural exchange, and to Manitoba for a weeklong trail ride.

Most of us have these recollections, tucked away in the recesses of our minds, kindled by faded mementoes in our box of memories, and inspired by the adventures our own children get to experience. They are precious, and part of the matrix of things that define our character.  I'm excited for Dylan, and look forward to hearing a few stories when I next get to see him, a week from tomorrow.


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