My dad has been a counselor and dean many times at Camp Michigamme. When I was in fourth grade he tried to persuade me to go to one of the elementary camps, but I refused. It just didn't sound like something I'd enjoy. Spending a night sleeping on the ground? Swimming in water without a sauna ten feet away? Battling mosquitoes? Stepping around animal mess? Sharing a bathroom with fifty people? I just wasn't up for that. Plus I rather enjoyed my television set and V.C.R.

That fall I invited a friend to a Saturday night sleepover. My mother agreed to our plans on the condition that we be up in time for Sunday School and church. Audrey had never gone to church before, and I think she only agreed to Mom's plan because we planned a must see movie marathon. One Saturday, after a couple more sleepovers, Audrey called me and asked if we would bring her to church on the days that we didn't have slumber parties. It soon became routine for us to swing by my friend's house on our way to church.

Summer rolled around and our minister began to talk about Camp Michigamme. My thoughts were still pretty much, 'Ew. Dirt.' But something about camp appealed to Audrey, and she wanted to go. She wouldn't go by herself though and begged for me to come, too. I was still apprehensive about this sharing a swim with fish and leeches thing, but I finally agreed since, because of church scholarships, attending camp was one of the few activities Audrey's family could afford to let her participate in.

We got to camp and after a few days I decided that it wasn't so bad. In fact I decided that it was the coolest place I'd ever visited. I made many new friends and tried things I never would have gotten the chance to experience had I not gone to camp. I ended up crying the last night because I didn't want to go home.

Audrey and I went to Camp Michigamme together for four summers, bringing our friends Sara and Samantha along as well sometimes. She moved away quite suddenly when we were going into eighth grade, and we lost track of each other. I didn't want to go to camp by myself the next year so the summer tradition stopped.

When I was sixteen I counseled at Michigamme for the first time. I was amazed to find out how much more intense the experience is as a near-adult than it is as a child. That week was, up until then, the best of my life and I made friends that I know I will be close to forever. That was the first year I got what my dad calls reverse homesickness. I finally understood why he moped around for months after returning home from camp, sad to be away from his friends.

I was a counselor last year and plan to this year as well. Audrey was my best friend from first grade to the summer of eighth. Now I don't even know where she lives, but I do owe her more than I can ever repay her. I have met the greatest people and had the most enlightening experiences at camp (not to mention the most fun). I wouldn't have any of that if Audrey hadn't talked me into that first year of Elementary II.

Is there a moral to this story? Of course. Is it corny? You bet. But here are my two points anyway: One is a variation of 'don't knock it until you try it' and 'be open to new things.' The other is that no matter how many times you've laughed at your Sunday School teacher for telling you to invite a friend to church and thought, 'No way, man! What does she think I am, a first class dork?', maybe you should actually think about doing it sometime. Or a lot of sometimes.

The REST of the story

In November 1997, Audrey came home to visit. We went to lunch with her and ended up talking about camp. She remembered many things and people, but she was much more fuzzy on the detalis of people from school and town, so I know camp must have meant a lot to her.

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