I went to camp and all I brought back was dirty fingernails

I drove through the winding path, tires crumbling the loose rocks that made up the road, my heart furiously beating against my chest. “Don’t worry”, I kept telling myself, “camp is supposed to be fun… isn’t it?” 

But, honestly, I really had no idea. How could I? I’d never even so much as slept in a tent, and the longest I’d spent away from home was three nights in a row. Yet, at 19 years old, I was getting ready to spend three months away from my family in the lovely (I’m sorry, did I say lovely? I meant terrifying.) Laurentien's woods.

People in the city didn’t really understand my decision. A lot of my friends were shocked that I would choose to “waste” a summer in the woods, working with kids, in an all girls environment. Nothing about this was appealing to them. Some people tried to talk me out of it, while others just shook their heads in resignation. Their reactions were really difficult for me, especially considering how nervous I was already feeling about this new experience.

Still, I went. Because apparently that’s what 19 year olds do: make impulsive decisions with their friends about ‘what we’ll do this summer’ and then stick to it.

 
2011 Natasha: discovering what camp's all about.

2011 Natasha: discovering what camp's all about.

 

Fast forward to the end of August. The campers have come and gone, staff party was a blast, and it was time to pack up my little corner of The Cove. As my little home got shoved into bags, I couldn’t wait to get back to Montreal, so I could tell everyone, much to their surprise, how incredible my summer spent at Ouareau was. 

I had accomplished so much, and I felt like a new, better version of myself. When my family and friends saw me, I was expecting them to notice the positive change in me, as if there were physical proof of everything that had happened. 

However, this is what those in the city (thought) they saw me bring home:

  1. Bug bites. Lots of bug bites.
  2. Smelly clothes. 
  3. Dirty fingernails.
  4. Bruises.
  5. Weird songs.
  6. Unorthodox table behaviour.
  7. Insomnia.
  8. Stories about strangers that I spoke about constantly.

Little did they know, this is what I was actually bringing home:

  1. Bug bites. Lots of bug bites.
  2. Clothes that smelled of outdoor safety; sunscreen and bug spray.
  3. Dirty fingernails that carried the memories of making candles in the sand at sunset.
  4. Bruises that showed the accomplishment of learning ins and outs in a canoe.
  5. Songs that will always lull me to sleep and chase away any bad dream.
  6. A new appreciation for tradition, including singing Grace, family-style meals, and Tuck.
  7. A love of the stars that are only visible from the Ouareau docks.
  8. Friends that, although far away, knew me better than those standing right beside me.
 
2014 Natasha: Lovin' camp life as Chipka Unit Head

2014 Natasha: Lovin' camp life as Chipka Unit Head

 

Everyone thought it would be a one-time thing. No one ever imagined that I would go back for a second year because “Seriously, how fun can a summer camp be? I mean, how could you keep going back?”

My response after five years as a Ouareau Girl— How could I not?

 

 

About the author: Natasha started at Ouareau in 2011 as Head of Dance and, four years later, she is returning for a second season as Ouareau's Chipka Unit Head. Natasha has a knack for building random home furnishings, and proving Batman's superiority over Spiderman. She has also been an avid scrunchie enthusiast since 1992.