by Sean Thomas Robson – Camper 2004 – 2012, Staff 2013 – 2015
Attempting to narrow myself to one camp story has been a very frustrating but immensely enjoyable challenge. As soon as I think of my time swimming in Hart Lake, booking it through the forests, or climbing the hill – that horrible, butt-kicking, breath-taking (literally) hill — I am instantly overwhelmed by a childhood’s worth of memories. Similar to an old family home, this place carries far too much significance to fit nicely into one story, but through the magic of time-travel and narrative plot devices I’ll do my best.
Going to camp was always a logical path for me, my sister and neighbours had all been going for years and they all seemed pretty cool. Also, as an eight-year-old boy, anything that involved more dirt and less bathing was naturally appealing. So off I went, excited for my first outdoorsy adventure.
After being dropped off, I quickly found myself surrounded by an entirely new environment. Unit 6, youngest boys, counselled by a Mr. John Dinner and resourced by Liam Gerussi. While the first few days whizzed past in a blur, a gut-wrenching sickness grew in the deepest pits of my stomach and eventually consumed me… I missed my mum. I remember the moment I had enough and broke into tears in my bunk. I remember my friends running to get help. I remember John taking me aside to comfort me. Unfortunately, what I don’t remember is a single thing that he said (not for lack of trying, but it was a long time ago). While his words may not have stuck with me, his gentle presence and genuine energy did. It was at that moment that camp began to feel a little bit more like home, and that I started to understand what made this place so great – its people. It was because of people like John, Liam, and countless others that I got to stick around and experience so many cool new firsts like flipping a canoe, pitching a tent, making homemade jam, and beating my personal best for most consecutive days wearing the same shirt (my mother was very impressed). I loved it so much I decided to return that same summer, and ever consecutive summer for 12 years to do it all again.
Fast forward to 2013, I was lucky enough to find myself counselling my own unit of youngest boys; four trouble makers all under the age of 9, constantly spinning with energy. I very quickly began to recognize a pattern, each of them reminding me what it was like my first year at camp. I could feel how lost they were the first couple days as they got their bearings. Then came the homesickness. I remember hearing the camper crying just before bed time. I remember collecting him and taking him aside to calm him down, and I remember trying my very best to emulate that same conversation John had with me many summers before. Eventually, after wiping up some tears and a day or so of non-stop fun something began to click. I got to witness first-hand those small moments when a camper slowly becomes more comfortable, and begins to fall in love with Camp Big Canoe.
Looking back on my time at camp I am grateful for three major things: The John’s and Liam’s I had to look-up to, those special moments spent with campers I had to look forward to, and these rambling stories and memories I have to look back on. Everything considered, it was a pretty awesome way to grow-up.