This past weekend I went to a reunion of my cabin at camp. I am now 56. The last time this group of girls saw one another we were 13. A profoundly formative experience for all of us, Killooleet, in Hancock, Vermont, was your classic 8-week sleep away camp, complete with rustic cabins, hiking, swimming, shop, drama, campfires and lots of folk singing.

The camp directors were John and Ellie Seeger, Pete Seeger’s brother and sister-in-law, and everyone it seemed played guitar or banjo or autoharp. Singing framed our days, whether sitting by the campfire or taking it on the road to community sings! I had sung in choirs before I got there, but Killooleet is where I learned to sing harmony.

There were ten of us in Cabin 9 and for four years we giggled together, wept together, played jacks together, scratched our bug bites together, sang along to the Jackson 5’s ABC and otherwise bared our young souls. And then it ended.  We went off into the world, into our lives, into the people we would become.

Imagine the great anticipation when five of us gathered this past weekend for a reunion in New York City. Such an incredible delight to see interwoven into who we are now the children we once were. The same warm, toothy smile now surrounded by a beautiful mane of gray, wavy, hair. The same shy, sweetness, now encased in a mother of two having navigated several careers. The same intrepid horse lover now wrangling words as a writer in Boston. The same wise eyes and brown curls, but now in a woman my age. How could this be?! We shrieked with laughter remembering our favorite counselors and boyfriends and as we began to collect information, to fill out the picture of what had happened since we last saw one another, a few amazing facts emerged. Of the five us, we were all still married to our first husbands. Three brave ones even dared to attend the reunion. Also, all five of us are in some form of helping professions: therapist, health coach, medical writer, priest, naturalist. Could all of this be linked back to camp?!

Out of ten girls in the cabin, one person couldn’t be found. One person lived in CA and couldn’t make the reunion. One person we believe is dead from cancer. One person was institutionalized after a psychotic break, several years after camp, and has not been heard from since. One person hung up the phone after being invited to the reunion. So, apparently the years had not been kind to everyone. But really, have they been kind to anyone? Maybe part of why this gathering felt so important is the triumph of finding ourselves still standing. It was clear that none of us had escaped the inevitable wounds of life: losing parents, raising children, changing careers. Somehow in that small gathering, a kind of root hope was rekindled. This deep formation as children, this ancient spiritual experience of being connected to something larger than ourselves, like a heartbeat, still resonates in the lives of the five of us.

I wonder if you went to camp? I wonder if you had a communal experience as a child that shaped who you are and is buried in there somewhere under the cares and travails of adulthood? One of my therapists once said, “There is no time-line in the subconscious.” As we sat reminiscing in that apartment on Central Park West, very much like adults- some of us drinking wine, some sparkling water- it was like camp had happened last summer. I don’t understand the mystery of time, the alchemy of memory, how it all seems to be happening simultaneously: present, past, future all contained in this moment. But I do understand the love that we have for one another and the world because of camp Killooleet.

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