Dear Bill and Sabina,
Sitting here in August we find it hard to believe that the summer is winding down. School supplies have been purchased along with a new school bag and jeans. Camp Moosilauke “active wear” is now PJ’s and the Moose sweatshirt has been hung in the closet. We now understand the saying…”All good things must come to an end.”
It was about a year ago that we heard about Moosilauke for the first time. From the description that Diane [camp parent 2010] shared it sounded like a very special place. After sending away for the information, Charlie watched the DVD repeatedly and we knew it was the camp for our family. We say “our family” because Camp Moosilauke embraces the entire family, not just the camper.
After having the opportunity to meet Bill face to face in Chicago and hear him share stories about Moosilauke, watch him thoughtfully interact with the boys and patiently answer parent’s questions we all wanted to head to Orford, New Hampshire for the summer!
So we waited through the long winter, rainy spring and started preparing for our journey east. We had no idea what lay ahead of us or about the extraordinary personal journey Charlie would take throughout the next month.
As we pulled into the Moosilauke driveway for drop-off day cheers, clapping and smiling faces lined the drive…the counselors were cheering for us! I started to cry…not because in a few hours we’d be saying goodbye to our son, but because it confirmed our instincts that Moose is a one in a million camp. And at the edge of the drive standing patiently in the drizzling rain was Bill…smiling waving us on and then stopping our car, leaning in and shaking our hands and getting down on his knees in the mud at the back door to speak with Charlie eye-to-eye and welcome him to Moosilauke.
When we arrived at Charlie’s cabin, his counselors greeted us by name (they had clearly read all our information) they welcomed Charlie so lovingly, helped him unpack, knew what his favorite sports teams were, what he wanted to try at camp that summer and what he was nervous about. They calmed our fears about leaving our son for the first time, and assured us that he would have a fantastic summer. They were right.
As we walked down the hill, young counselors from around the world stopped to introduce themselves to us, welcoming Charlie, sharing a personal story. The friendliness, professionalism and genuine care that each staff member possessed was incredible. The thoughtful and detailed visit with the camp nurse. Everything was so upbeat and positive we knew Charlie was certainly in wonderful hands.
Bill took the time to meet with new parents again before we had to leave. Reviewing with us what to expect…some homesickness. What not to expect…detailed letters from our campers!
So it was time to go…Charlie was in the middle of a pick-up soccer game with twenty or so other boys. We called him over to say goodbye. Hugs, kisses…but no tears. We all know it was exactly the right place at the right time.
Tennis, basketball, swimming, lacrosse, archery, baseball, woodworking, bike riding, fishing, hiking, camping, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, soccer, waterskiing, wakeboarding…the fun and challenges began! Picture after picture posted on the website our son trying new things, stretching his comfort zone, safe and sound surrounded by loving counselors, coaches and friends.
Then four days after drop-off, the call from Bill to tell us that Charlie was homesick but doing well. The call was not to alarm us and just tell us that fact…but rather it was a thoughtful discussion about our son and what we thought might be helpful and what Bill and Sabina had already done to make him feel better. Bill knew my son so well, his personality, his challenges, and successes. There was nothing I could share with Bill that he didn’t already know about Charlie. If I had been at Moosilauke, I would have handled Charlie’s homesickness the exact same way. The inquiry was positive, heartwarming and again confirmed for us that Moose is a family experience…not just a young boy’s adventure.
Letters, care packages (no food, of course), pictures, web postings, more letters…then four and a half weeks were over…Parents Day! Walking across the expansive lawn that morning we were nervous. We had such high expectations for Charlie’s first camp experience…who was the boy we were about to reconnect with going to be?!!! Jeff spotted him first walking up from the lake, I could not see him…well I saw a kid who looked like our son, but he was a lot taller and blonder than they boy I dropped off a month ago! Yep that was him…so self-assured and peaceful I stopped to watch him before he saw us…I could tell from 50 yards away Moosilauke had worked it’s magic…our son had grown inside and out.
Hugs, kisses, high fives, handshakes with all the staff, counselors, campers, parents, cabin mates… our day was filled with stories, experiences, show and tell, food laughter and so much joy.
How Moosilauke changed our family: as parents we learned to trust our son’s judgment. He told us he was ready to go to sleep-away camp…we were not sure. During his visit to Chicago Bill said, “The thing about boys is that they never want to ‘lose face’, so we have to create an environment that allows them to take risks and find success.” We now understand our 9 year-old boy better. In the month away from home Charlie was able to find parts of himself that he did not know before: the adventurer, the campfire builder, the lacrosse player, the funny friend, the trustworthy cabin mate.
After Moosilauke our son is more self-confident, more thoughtful about other people’s feelings, more willing to try new things, more open to other’s opinions, closer to knowing himself and willing to open himself to new experiences. It was everything we had hoped for and more!
After Moosilauke as parents we are more patient, more willing to listen, more connected to our son, more certain then ever that in this crazy world where there can be so much pain and suffering that there is still a place where life can slow down, be simple, connect with nature and young boys can find their voices.
Bill and Sabina, you and your staff KNOW boys. You have created a wonderful environment that exudes friendliness, safety, challenges and successes. As a teacher, I respect all you are able to do in four weeks and know that you are right on the money with your curriculum, pedagogy, and execution.
We will be back next summer. As time passes and we prepare to return to school we know that Moosilauke will be with us all year. Stories continue to slowly come out of Charlie, songs, chants and memories unexpectedly flood our dinner table. We all smile and know that in our hearts we are all now “Moose men…mighty, mighty Moose men”!
With love and respect,
Annie and Jeff, parents of a Junior B (9 year-old) camper
PS – Charlie says “Hi”!