The first time that a bunch of us joined the Vogts and the Cannings at Calumet on the shores of Lake Ossipee, Larissa Ho was only 2 years old. To help give a better sense of how long ago that was, the 8 and 9 year-olds that just had their first communion a few weeks ago were still wearing diapers in camp.
While preparing to describe our Calumet experience this year, I took a look back at old photos – showing the passage of time not just in our children, but in the subtle ways our Peace Lutheran group has grown and evolved. In spite of all the joy and excitement we felt about being together at camp in 2009, we were nervously stepping on new ground. We were tentative about how much we could (or would) let our hair down amongst the folks we (sometimes) get dressed up to see on Sundays. We fretted silently about whether our kids would be as well-behaved as our peers’ children; we worried our kids would keep the neighbors awake at night as they worried about the darkness in the tent; we even worried we’d not be ‘churchy’ enough for the leaders at Calumet or for each other. Looking back at those pictures now, I realize how new our relationships were – it was just the beginning of our kids’ growing up and our growing “old” together.
When I look back, I think of that first Calumet trip like the early days of courtship, when we had a gleeful secret that something wonderful was beginning and that it just might last a while. But I think for me, the best part of that weekend was how freeing it was to be together. On a practical level it was great to share the parenting responsibilities with each other – it’s true that many hands do make light work. But we also found a new level of trusting each other with our thoughts, our feelings and our own quirky family dynamics. We found out that we all had imperfect kids and imperfect parenting skills, and that we could let our hair down – pretty much completely. Those of you who have been inside a Calumet bathroom first thing in the morning know just how willing we are to let down more than just our hair. We found freedom in our shared experiences.
Which leads me to this year. After years of perfect weather, last year’s freezing cold and soaking wet days AND nights made us all a bit skittish when we saw last weekend’s forecast. The predictions got worse and worse the closer we got to Friday – and in fact, heading up in driving rain and bumper-to-bumper traffic, I started contemplating a warm hotel room instead of setting up camp in a downpour after dark. Some of the families made last minute decisions not to come at all. But there were still 9 families who decided it was bound to be too good to miss, rain or no rain.
And indeed, it was too good to miss. We had a few passing showers on Saturday, rain each night, and glorious sunshine all day on Sunday. And, after six years of Calumet together, we have our own Peace Lutheran Calumet traditions. In addition to all the continuity offered by the yearly events planned by the staff there, we also have stargazing with Alan’s super-strong telescope; lining up the Adirondack chairs so our toes are in the water while the kids swim and kayak; evening fires together at our campsites; and a full-out Kid-Fest Free-for-All of romping on the beach at sunset after ice cream with all the toppings.
I think the two words that kept running through my head all weekend were freedom and tradition. We have parents who went to Calumet as kids –either for the overnight camp, or with their own families, and even as counselors. And while some things have changed, for sure, the buildings, the Lutheran themes, the magical warmth and welcome are the same year after year. It is immensely reassuring to me that I can give my children a taste of what growing up in an extended church family was like for me as a kid. We here at Peace are providing that for each other all year long, but Calumet is the cherry on top – the intense sweetness we savor and hold on to from one Memorial Weekend to the next. Calumet has become another TRADITION for all of us.
In closing, I’ll mention what one of our friends said to me when trying to decide whether or not to go this year. She said, “One of the hardest things to give up if we don’t go is the freedom. The boys just don’t get that kind of freedom anywhere else.” That one sentence played over and over in my head as a watched the entire camp come alive with kids after dark – these little people would emerge out of nowhere and start a massive game of one sort or another in the dark. I sat and watched bobbing headlamps and glow sticks dodging about for more than an hour, thinking about the freedom we have through Christ — the freedom that comes from forgiveness, and acceptance, and a promise of something more. Calumet reminds me of our Lutheran traditions that bind us together, and our Christian freedoms that help us grow in our love for one another.