I took my final bow as the audience roared with applause. I smiled wide, from ear to ear. In the back of the crowd, I spotted my friends, cheering me on. My heart was racing from the rush of adrenaline coursing through my veins. Almost immediately after I stepped off the stage, my counselors ushered me back towards the cabin. They couldn’t tell me, nor the rest of my cabin mates who were also told to go, what was going on. We entered the creaky, wooden structure we called home for the past month. I reached towards the light switch, as it was pitch black. Before I got a chance to, another girl swatted my hand away and told me to sit. Everyone was confused as to who was sitting on the foot of each of our beds, and why. I obeyed, and sat down to find a CIT, Emi, before me.
I opened my mouth to speak, but was immediately shushed. I soon felt a cool cloth put over my eyes. I could tell that my friend’s assigned CITs were doing the same from the faint, “Where are we going?”s and “What’s going on?”s that I could hear in the background. I put my trust in Emi’s hands and let her lead me to our final destination. We walked for what felt like an eternity. I aimlessly tried to guess where I was, but to no avail. Soon enough, I was told to sit and huddle next to the other 30 something girls who had been blindfolded and guided around as well.
“Take your blindfolds off, everyone”, said a voice coming from somewhere in the room. Everyone slowly removed their blindfolds to find find that they were in the middle of the Cedars cabin, or the CIT cabin. I averted my eyes to the CIT girls who were surrounding us. They each had a little paragraph or so to read. They spoke about what it takes to be a CIT, what it takes to be a leader in camp, the following year. They spoke about all of the great memories they had over their years in camp and to not waste them, because they’ll soon be over. They lastly spoke to us about becoming CITs, saying that the whole camp looks up to us and that we need to be the leaders everyone expects us to be.
The sound of sniffles and cries slowly grew throughout the room. We all watched the CITs reminisce about their memories in this special place we called camp. Soon, we started to cry too and not a single eye in the room was dry. We cried because we realized we had to make our last year count. We cried because we knew all of this would be over by the time the end of next summer rolled around. We cried because we would leave home soon. After the room of crying teenage girls cleared, we all went back to our cabins.
Exactly a year later, we were those CITs. The girls a year younger than us listened to us talk about the responsibilities and duties of becoming a CIT. We cried just like the CITs before us, and probably the ones before them. “Remember our first day of camp?” One of my friends, Avery, said.
My first day of camp was horrible. I didn’t know anyone and I was really homesick. As I stepped off of that stupid bus I thought, “Why is everyone so happy? They just left their parents for a whole month. How is this a happy moment?” I sat by myself for most of the day because I didn’t want to just burst into tears if someone tried to come and talk to me. I thought that maybe Mom or Dad would come pick me up if I didn’t make any friends by the end of the first week. Maybe even 3 days… Or right at that very moment if possible.
“Or what about our first last day of camp,” Ellie suggested.
Everyone had told me since I arrived at camp that the last day is the worst day of your life. But I didn’t really get it. I thought I had a decent time, but not good enough to cry over it. During the last song of the council fire, I heard quiet sniffles scattered throughout the other 400 campers. The sound started to grow until I heard it directly on my left: Shira began to cry. Then I heard it directly on my right where Jacqui shed a few tears. That’s when the waterworks started for me as well. The realization that we were leaving this place in a few days finally hit us and we were all heartbroken.
“Trying to convince my brother to come here was a nightmare,” I chimed in.
“Come on Jack, you would love camp, why won’t you come next year?” I asked.
“It just doesn’t sound fun, I’d rather stay at home,” He replied. I couldn’t get over how ridiculous I thought he sounded at the time. I thought back to my first day and remembered how much I hated it. But I knew he’d grow to love it just as I did.
I attempted to convince him,“Jack, camp is such an amazing place and you’re never going to understand it unless you just trust me and go.” Somehow, I managed to get him to comply, and go. Soon enough, he loved camp as much as I knew he would, and more.
“I love you guys so much,” Demi said with teary eyes. We nodded and agreed in unison. We went in for a group hug which lasted for what seemed like eternity. Not because I was waiting for it to end, but because no one wanted to let go. A connection was felt between all of us; one that couldn’t be broken.
I stopped to look around. To someone else, this was just a creaky, old, wooden cabin. But to me, it was where memories were made. To someone else, the lake outside was just a body of water. But to me, it was where I faced my fear and got up on water skis for the first time. To someone else, these people were just people. But to me, they were family. And to someone else, this place was just an ordinary camp in the middle of Maine. But to me, it was home.