I have been gone from home for around 7 days now, though it seems longer. After spending 3 1/2 days with 16 teens on a service trip, I drove my youngest daughter to summer camp.
There are a myriad of camps of all flavors closer to home, but this is the one my grandmother helped purchase back in the 1950’s, and became my “spiritual home” at many important points in my life. I doubt I am the only one to inflict their childhood camp on their kids, even though times have changed and they are different people from us. Continuity is a part of what is meaningful in life. And anything that is a “safe place” for kids ought to be broadly supported.
It’s hard to make peace with your childhood, as most of us know. Perhaps you have a conflicted relationship with a particular parent or sibling, or made one bad mistake, or felt completely stifled at home. As a high school student, I pretty much tried to not offend anyone, especially the “in crowd.” I steered clear of the all but the drama/music crowd and it mostly worked, with few exceptions. Plus every second child watches the first’s behavior at home, closely monitors parental reaction, and responds in a way that might have a better outcome. Not that I have been a conflict avoider or anything. Not me.
A few days ago I was sitting at my cousin’s house overlooking the Little Spokane River. They built a gorgeous home with an enormous front porch. (This isn’t it, but it gives you a good feel.) We sat out on the covered deck with the fan going, watching the birds, the river, the deer, and talked. When we were young and he lived in Iowa, we wrote letters to each other. Don’t tell anyone, but he was always my favorite cousin on my dad’s side.
We haven’t stayed in close contact, partly due to living in different areas of the state, and partly due to some icky conflicts between his mom, my aunt, and my dad. At one point he asked me point blank about the reason we were no longer very connected. It was a tough moment and it isn’t appropriate to go into the details here, but suffice it to say we had a very candid conversation which left me feeling a bit raw with honesty.
It’s a good raw. Though I feel a bit tearful writing it. So many things keep us from each other. And sometimes, there is a trickle down effect from bad blood between sibs which keeps us from those we really love. Not really intentional, just a consequence of being in relationship. “The sins of the fathers…visited to the ‘umpteenth’ generation,” as an ancient text reads.
My cousin and I likely don’t agree on the President, nor what is considered a “family,” nor a myriad of other things. But so what. If we can try to understand the choices we have made, respect that we have both done kindly enough to others, and care about each other, it is enough. It is enough to let go of some worries and some judgments, we will have made the world, and our world, a little better.
A wise person once said,
“you cannot miss your appointment with death, only your appointment with life…”
I feel like this is a life appointment I have missed for many years. And, if I believe that love wins, that my job is to unearth more grace than I have known previously, then I can take a step into my own meaning making. Continuity helps ground us. And I intend to take another step after this one.