Icelandic Camp 2017
Icelandic Camp - The Beginning
After a tremendously busy week and weekend at work, I returned to my home late on Sunday night. Icelandic Camp started on Saturday and I'm a scheduled late arrival as of Monday morning. Completely exhausted, totally unprepared, and utterly uninspired; I opted to hit the hay and get things together in the morning. The trouble is, I didn't wake up on the right side of the bed either. Scheduled to be out of town for the week, I felt inundated with tasks that I had meant to get done earlier. I slowly gathered my belongings and set sail on the mighty #8 highway. A long, slow, and frustrating hour long drive awaited my trusty Honda Civic. I spent that time ruminating about various work and life stressors, while listening to talk radio news segments on the complexities of US politics. I had a headache. I wanted to turn around and go home.
But before I knew it, my vehicle had found its way to a tiny sign marking the gravel road leading to Icelandic Camp. I smiled as I manoeuvred through my highway exit; my mind excitedly recounting the many, many times in my life when I have found my way back to this same road. As I drove down the gravel path, I could feel myself releasing my adult worries into the dust that trailed my car. I was back at Icelandic Camp. And there is no place on earth that I would rather be.
Functioning again in official capacity of Lifeguard for the week, I had figured that the campers would be eager to swim. Another scorching hot Manitoba day was upon us and I was certain our Vikings had been busy rough housing and pillaging the day away. As I pulled into the camp area, I could hear my friend Mallory yelling into a megaphone "SARAH IS HERE!!!". The children erupted in cheers of joy and applause as I exited my vehicle to receive a rush of enthusiastic hugs. As much as I would like to believe that they were this excited to see ME, this reception was most certainly because I held the keys to their future in Lake Winnipeg. A new 6 year old camper approaches me. "What's your name?" she asks purposefully. "Sarah" I respond. "Oh" she says looking down for a moment. "You don't look like a Sarah". I thanked her for her honesty. I'll be sure to pass the feedback along to my Mother Vivian Painter.
Once settled in and the campers safety briefed, I lead my mighty Vikings to the roaring seas for a cooling dip. Many faces familiar, many new. I relished in my opportunities to spend time with them while watching them play. The usual suspects out here are outrageously taller than last year. I'm not sure what their parents are feeding them - but it seems to be working.
After the campers are adequately cooled and refreshed, we return to land for activities. One of our tiniest campers tells me that she feels sick. We decide that it might be a good idea to rest. I pour her a nice glass of water and spend some time with her in the little girls' cabin; chatting and meeting her stuffed animals. But this is no ordinary little girl today. This, is a birthday girl! It is her sixth birthday and we are all so excited and proud of her. Hoping to spruce her up, I ask if she feels better, which she vigorously shakes her head 'no' in response to. She looks down at her stuffed friends. "Is it your tummy?" I inquire. "Are you sure that you don't have hurt in your heart?" She shakes her head no a second time. But our conversation is short lived as her family arrives with special gifts and a cake large enough for all campers to share! Her mother has brought her a beautiful new dress and we all gather to sing "Til hamingju með afmælið" (Happy Birthday) and cheer for her as she blows out her candle. A very special birthday party indeed.
We round out the day by singing and playing big games in the field. I watch the campers as the interact - old friends, siblings, cousins, and new faces. The birthday girl runs through the field in her flowing pink dress as they play every form of "Tag" that I have ever heard of - Standard tag, toilet tag, blob tag, mosquito tag - all executed with the same zest as the first game. Their laughter animates the early evening skies until it becomes dark.
After a flurry of teeth brushing, finding lost shoes, and big hugs, all of the vikings have now been tucked into their bunks. Another exciting day awaits them tomorrow.
And I too am now cozied into my sleeping bag. My adult worries left scattered along the highway like a trail of breadcrumbs that I can collect on my way home. Somewhere along the line I grew up and became an adult. But how lucky am I that once a year I can leave it all behind and find my way back to the magic of camp.
Góða nótt hjólhýsi (good night campers). I'm so happy to be back with you again.