KODA Camp at Camp Mark Seven will forever hold a special place in my heart as the place I found myself. Between dance parties on the girls floor and confessions under star-lit skies next to a bonfire, a big red building in Old Forge, NY became my favorite home — the one I ache for on lonely days and dream about in my happiest moments.
When people ask me what I did this summer or why I continue to go back to a place that once knew the 12-year-old geeky version me, I can never find the words to explain a place so magical. And then, this summer, I did.
These are snippets of a life under that green tin roof.
He read words off of her hands slowly, stealing glances between us as to check if I was following along. No one had asked him to step in, but years of trips to the food store and doctor’s appointments left him a habitual mediator wherever the world took them. And he didn’t mind.
But that wasn’t needed here. For this is the land where the Deaf are kings and queens, their language and beings put first (finally) and valued above all others. Where the burdens of a hearing world are forgotten and those under its weight – the lost boys and girls of a galaxy in-between – are invited to find themselves as kids in fleeting moments that are gone far too soon.
I got it – I started to say, hoping to relieve him of unnecessary duties – but I caught myself. Part of the magic is finding our world yourself, I remembered.
And I knew it was only time before he would.
good morning ladies
I wake often to dreams reminiscent of the sound of raindrops pit-pattering a green tin roof on a cold summer’s morning, the crisp air whispering through the open crevices of my bunk and reminding me of the joy of these softer days.
In the hallway, a muted but familiar call sneaks under the crack of my closed door and 36 pairs of shoes shuffling across an uneven wooden floor respond – a hint of the life waiting just inches away.
And on sunnier days, their voices echo through the outside, passing through a field brazen with pine trees as tall as their spirits, and float through the screen of my open window as I waken to a sweet lullaby.
These are happier mornings, where the plight of a few hours sleep escapes me and I wake whole-heartedly, ready to make this day ours once again while we still can.
Good morning, ladies; it’s time to wake up.
The rhythm sleeps with me even today.
It was a day where everything made sense. Where back stories were no longer needed and instead our lives swept seamlessly through the air like the dancing fingertips of our childhood. Soon it became clear we were on the brink of something we desperately needed, and we went after it.
In our midst were generations of stories traded through tears and laughter that whispered, “I know. Me too.” in less words than I had ever seen, filling the air with sweet lullabies as they came and went. As our hearts poured into one another, it suddenly became a day where we knew we were part of something so much more than ourselves.
Where everything before us and everything after us finally made sense. Where it was said to be okay to be angry, ashamed, frustrated and sad with the world our parents had to face. The world we had to face.
And, where we learned how to hold each other in an invisible embrace miles and years apart, as if to say, “It’s okay. I’m here. You’re not alone.” in no words at all.
It was a day where, finally, I could breathe.
why do we get a camp?
Why do we get a camp, they asked?
And instantly I thought of the way your life fit so effortlessly with mine.
I thought of tears shed over mismatched families as we lay on mismatched couch cushions. Of whispers of lifelong friendships set in a moments notice and shared giggles around a warm summer fire.
Of the music that set us free in a sweaty auditorium and the quiet conversations that kept us grounded on the blacktop, the field, an aging dock and a three-bunk room on the girl’s floor.
Why do we get a camp, they asked?
And while I thought of a million reasons why, I sat silently, for I knew no words could explain the comfort of having you as mine.
when a lost boy comes home
“I will never be as lucky as I am right now,” he said softly, passing the spotlight onto the next just as suddenly as it had been passed to him.
He was a lost boy, navigating a maze of wilderness in a world uncertain on many terms, but here he found a home. And that hit me.
In the quiet moments that came before that night I wept for his future, prayed for his return and plead with all the Gods in the universe that he saw what I saw, what we saw, when lost boys and girls sought comfort in one another.
In a quiet walk just days before, he and his brothers shared with me stories of their past and dreams of their future, entrusting their lives in my hands as if I were their Peter Pan, the one who would make that day and the days to come whole for them once again.
And I wanted to be. Just as others were to me.
With that day came a glimpse of hope where I saw a future in which maybe, someday, our home would lessen the burden of that maze, the one in which they faced a world uncertain in so many terms.
But, “I will never be as lucky as I am right now,” he said. And I realized in that moment, the looming truth in his words. The added burdens of his maze that had escaped mine.
And I knew that in the night and the days that followed, I would weep and pray and plead again, that someday he would know how it felt when a lost boy returns home.
And I still do.
If I had to do it all again, I would choose this: the smell of sweet smoke kissing our skin as we lay together underneath the freckled sky, listening to everything there is to love about our world.
You and me, here together, at last.
Until next time, friend.