This past weekend I went and visited a place very special to me, the National Youth Science Camp. For those of you that know me well, you know that was a very formative time in my life, and the friendships I created then (and since, with other campers from other years) have been dear to me.
Although it’s only the next state away, I had never actually visited the camp site after leaving in 1991. I went down to Charlottesville and met Erica, and we went over the mountains to Bartow, WV where the camp resides (for the last 55 years!) I was unexpectedly nervous, wondering if the halcyon memories I had would stand up to the jaded adult I’ve become. The sign for the camp at the entrance made my heart leap, and I had to run out and take a picture. Driving in was surreal, bringing back a ton of memories that had long since been overgrown. It’s funny how memory can often be spatial, so that the reemergence of one will bring out others connected to it.
The camp looks the same, albeit with the cabins looking a bit fresher than they used to. John G. is the camp director, and it was great to see someone I know at that position. There were other familiar faces – Michael Stark- a staph member my year – had serendipitously signed up this year after someone quit at the last minute. The Hackelpeople (David and Deb) were there too, just about to leave after their seminar. Steve Blasberg was in for a few days to do a directed study. It was great to walk around and drink it all in.
The kids – and they were kids, despite my memory of attending the camp and knowing it all myself – were enthusiastic and friendly for the most part. I was slightly envious of them – not necessarily for their youth, because you couldn’t really pay me to go through late adolescence and my college years again. Well, maybe I envy them a *little* for that – to be mostly potential, like a coiled spring, not having yet borne the scrapes and scars of life. But I envied them mostly for the experiences they were yet to have, on their upcoming overnighters and those special days that were yet to come. When I was a camper we were blissfully ignorant of what was to come, simply trusting what was to be.
After dinner a Marshall professor did a talk on gravitational waves, which was fun to listen to. I chose to sleep in the guest cabin and was reminded that what was just fine for a 16 year old body wasn’t necessarily the most comfortable for a 42 years old one. The power went out over night (it rained heavily) so I didn’t exactly get the camp morning experience that I remember (although the staph gamely drug out a battery powered speaker that was blasting the “Rhodendron Song”) , but it was wonderful to stand out on the green and watch 100+ kids play frisbee and dance to whatever was on the speaker before breakfast.
We made it out of there after breakfast (the delegates went on their overnighters) and we made it back to c-ville. Ended up having a beer with Neil since he was free , a nice little spontaneous get together. It was great to see him, as he’s in his 4th year of medical school and is well into establishing a life for himself.
Next week we’re headed to Colorado to visit Jaideep, Sushma and the kiddos. I’m glad we’re taking this opportunity, since they are now preparing to move to Houston as Jaideep has gotten a well-deserved jump up to CFO of a large charter school network there. Luckily, we’ve been able to stay put all this time (this will be their 5th different home in 4 different states since we’ve moved to our house). I don’t envy their move! But that means that we have more reasons to visit Houston, as Rohan and Amyna are already there. We can see them all in one visit, practically.
Hard to believe we’re already a couple of weeks into the summer. After our Colorado trip we’ll be mostly here in July. The older kids have a karate camp and Annika has a drama camp. In August we’re going to take a long weekend trip to Canada, and then a couple of weeks they’re back in school … already!