I should start by prefacing that every single password of mine has some version of Chen-A-Wanda in it. That’s because when I got there in 2001, it changed my life.
I walked onto the bus in 2001 knowing no one in my bunk, no one even in my division. It was before we had new camper get-togethers or first friends; I truly couldn’t have imagined what was in store for me that summer or what was to come from the choice my parents made (thanks, Mom and Dad) to send me to Camp Chen-A-Wanda.
It wasn’t the climbing tower or the wild rides on the banana boat (that we did multiple times in our clothes to be ridiculous) that would keep me coming back to camp, but the friendships I made. The friendships I made that first summer are ones that are still in my life today. As a Jersey girl, people in my hometown used to tell me I should just move to Long Island because of how much time I spent there. But my camp friends just meant more to me than I could explain to anyone. They “got me” on another level.
I remember the nights we stayed up all hours talking on the cubby room floor, the rest hours we piled on each other’s beds to watch Grey’s Anatomy on the smallest tv I’ve ever seen. It’s the number of times we laughed so hard you don’t want to know what happened. The times we tried to go on “raids” and got caught outside the bunk. The time we even raided the bunk next door!! The chicken patty competitions. The girls sing LOSSES we always encountered (still confused about a few of them lol). The time Lindsay and I ran off stage during Sign and Song (dancing isn’t our thing). First kisses we giggled about, first loves we saw each other through, and so many experiences that deepened our connection, keeping us all still so closely woven into one another’s lives today.
People don’t always get the “camp” bond, but it’s those moments that happen when you live with people that just can’t be rivaled. These girls literally grew up with me. They saw me through my weirdest awkward days to now, and for the most part…they somehow still like me.
When we get together we still usually break out in our old songs, and I’m confident I could sing you a majority of our Girls Sing and Color War songs verbatim. Even after months or years of not seeing each other, we recently sat together at a restaurant for hours and laughed harder the next morning about our antics in a way that you only can do with your camp friends.
But my camper days were only one chapter of my camp experience…
When I returned to camp in 2009, I really had no clue that attempting to make the Boys Side infamous midcourt shot would result in finding the guy I now LIVE with 9 years later. I mean…WHAT! I’m convinced we must have handed the baton to one another at some point in our prior summers, but to our knowledge, despite both starting in 2001, we really only “met” that summer in 2009.
Looking back on 2009, I really had no idea I would find the love of my life that summer let alone on the Biddy Court. Alex and I continued our relationship long distance with camp being our place to really “be” with each other. We became best friends who could talk all hours of the night and found a love that would grow beyond anything we ever imagined. We supported one another when one of us was captain, and rivaled each other in 2010 (I still believe Red Army lost because I left a t-shirt in the dining hall…we all know dynamite was a killer song!!!). We went on the craziest adventures, had the most insane days, and really built a foundation for our relationship that made our time apart unquestionably worth it.
2009 not only brought me my boyfriend but more camp friends where the conversations would be never ending on our porches or over boneless wings at Candlelight. We’d laugh harder with our campers who are now gorgeous girls in High School, some heading to college and have become friends I’m forever grateful for.
When my days at Chenny came to a close in 2012, it was really hard for me. I read the blog every night and texted everyone there for play by plays of camp. I think it’s because camp will always have the most special place in my heart. When I get the chance to visit, there’s a feeling I get in my stomach when I’m driving those winding roads. No, it’s not nausea, it’s the purest excitement for the place that let me grow into the person I am today. The place where so many significant events in my life happened that shaped me. It’s crazy to think that a place could have so much value. But when I look at Alex and our life together, or at my phone where half of the conversations I save are with camp friends, I know that first summer in 2001 was the beginning of this incredible journey that has truly led me to where I am now.
I couldn’t be more thankful for my time at camp, and am really so jealous of anyone stepping on that bus for the first time this summer!!!! Ya never know…maybe that bus will lead you to your best friends or the love of your life.