Slowing the car to a crawl, my father takes a left- the left- and the world we were in seconds ago melts away. Smooth pavement dissolves into the familiar old gravel road, and with it dissolves any lasting remnants of today’s worries. A mile back, the radio signal gave out, “forcing” my father and I to listen to a combination of his favorite rock and roll tracks and weathered road trip favorites.
Air whirls through the open window, tangling through my hair and whispering words of encouragement into my ears. “You’re here,” it seems to whisper “You’re home.” I inhale it greedily, taking my first breath in a year. The perfume of pine permeates each cell of my body with peace. These are the same pines in which I learned to build shelter, should I ever need it, in my fifth year. I had gathered heaps of the blanket of copper pine needles and insulated my lean-to. These are the same pines that I have eaten my fair share of because white pine is edible “in an emergency.” These are the same pines that taught me how to build fire, mixing their needles with their fallen branches, sparking a flame along with new friendships.
As we carry farther down the road my eyes catch glimpses of the team building course, shrouded by the pines. Each year I completed their challenges with sweat on my brow and clenched fists. I sighed in frustration when my body was unable to perform the tasks at hand, but learned to bite my lip when others were the cause of team failure. Hours of hard work taught me that blaming others for failure won't make me succeed any faster. Rope bridges and balance beams nurtured my patience and humility.
As we draw nearer to our destination, pines fall away into one room cabins, and the dirt of the road turns once again to stone. Nestled against the edge of a shimmering lake, a tiny chapel is filled with rows of children. The chapel is a church only in name, a remnant from the establishment’s religious foundation. In it, rows of wooden benches slope towards a worn stage, raised some six inches off of the ground. I smile. This stage had been my Globe Theatre, witnessing skits and lip syncs with more genius than that of Shakespeare’s great works. On this stage I danced until my lungs felt they would give out. I marvelled at the high of performing. I learned to utilize the talents of others: a dance routine only looks good if everyone can learn the moves. Here is where my eight year old self sang her heart out to a version of a Taylor Swift song and felt every lyric in her soul.
Finally, our vehicle pulls to a stop in front of the main lodge, and I’m out of my seat before my father has even put the car in park. The sandy dirt clings to my flip-flopped feet and all around me, the air buzzes with history, my history. A favorite counselor approaches me, her smile as vibrant as the sunbeams dancing across the surface of the lake. “Welcome back to Camp Pinewood,” she begins.
The wind sighs through the pines once again, and as their scent fills me I am reminded that this is not welcome back, it is welcome home.