Simple Gifts


today, he would make a natural blogger

Urgency Day 20

500 Things Item 478: Walden by H.D. Thoreau

  • History: I attended Thoreau Middle School, read Walden in high school, but it wasn’t until I took a graduate seminar on HDT that I learned to pronounce his name correctly (THAW-roe).
  • Value: “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify!”
  • Parting pain: I’m thrilled to share.
  • Un-possessing: Gift—read on.

There are two kinds of families: Ones who send their kids to summer camp and the other kind.

My family was the other kind.

Because I never went to summer camp, I am left with the conviction that I missed out on the greatest, most formative experiences of life.

No wonder I’m such a mess: I never went to summer camp!

  • I never camped under the perfect summer sky.
  • I never learned to run like Rudy the Rabbit.
  • I never met my long-lost twin!

Okay, maybe some of my yearnings are more informed by Disney than by the park district. But how would I really know? Still, I’ve heard from Actual Campers that camp truly was all that. And more.

I have a young friend who’s off on his first two-week sleep-away camp experience. He has the advantage of having an older brother who has been to the same camp and who has shared his rough and tumble camp wisdom. Well, some of his r & t camp wisdom. I understand it’s part of the Brother Code to share wisdom only on a need-to-know basis.

In many families, there is a kids-to-camp drill. In this one, as each boy departs for the first time, their parents send out an email entreaty, giving the newest camper’s address and encouraging family and friends to send along a note, a postcard, or, if they are so inclined, a care package. Remember how fantastic it was getting mail when you were at camp?

Well, no I don’t. But I do remember getting mail at college.

I remember the elation of looking through the tiny little window of my College Station mailbox and seeing the diagonal edge of a letter or, oh happy day!, the end of a small package. When you didn’t see that tell-tale edge, you could still humor yourself into dialing in your combination on the off-chance that you had received a very small card or, oh glorious day!, a Large-Package Notice which was lying obscured on the bottom of your mailbox.

“Oh well,” was usually the response to this most hopeful act.

I’m remembering that hopefulness and hoping to delight my young friend during at least one mail call. I’m sending him a letter and a book. Here’s the thing: I didn’t go to camp, I wasn’t a boy, and so I’m not sure if what I am sending will actually please him beyond just getting mail. That’s probably enough.

I’m sending along an old copy I have of Walden. It’s sweet, it’s quaint, and for all my hopes of giving cheer to my young friend, it may be hopelessly naïve.

I’m not sure, but what more could you wish for the last precious days of summer camp?


3 Responses to “Simple Gifts”

  1. megan Says:

    Wow, I can relate.

  2. Sydney Says:

    Oh, you beautiful girl. I felt such a flood of happiness when I finally, belatedly, made the connection from the beginning of this blog entry to the end, and realized that Cable, our dear Cable, was the recipient of your much-loved book! I got so swept up in your summer camp fantasy, and references to Disney and The Parent Trap, that I forgot about Item #478 until it swooped back around nailed me with a surprisingly emotional wallop.

    I miss the boy quite a lot by now, and I miss you, and those two facts had a happy-sad collision just now.

    Thank you for loving him as you do. I am so looking forward to the reunions in the latter half of August with my campers and non-campers, and all the big hugs to come!

  3. sthibeault Says:

    Big walloping hugs!!

    I am looking forward to being together, too… But part of me could wait a little longer. I am so glad there will be much happiness with the inevitable sadness. Eighteen years to prepare, and in these last precious days, it all feels so rushed.

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