Friends


I was recently asked to describe in one word a place that has been a big part of my life for more than 30 years. I didn’t have to think too hard before answering, “Friends.” But now that I’ve had more time to think, I realize there are so many excellent words to describe Camp Tockwogh. I know—it may sound silly to have such a connection to a summer camp but I’m guessing you are thinking about your own camping experience as a kid and saying, yeah, I remember how fun that was.

Last weekend I attended a 75th anniversary alumni weekend at Camp Tockwogh. It’s a beautiful 309-acre YMCA camp on the Northeastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. I saw some old friends, counselors, and campers I haven’t seen in awhile. The age differences between some of us may have meant a lot back in the day, but the wrinkles and grey hair were spread pretty evenly among most of the group of alumni staff at the reunion.

One of our group members is a professional cameraman and brought his equipment to film our stories. It  got pretty emotional for many of us—tears from good memories and thoughts of friends who aren’t with us anymore flowed as much as the laughter. It got me to thinking…

Tockwogh is quite a magical place. It’s beautiful and the activities are fun, but there’s more to it than the physical space. There is a special bond formed between the people who have experienced camp. Regardless of when you worked there or even if you went there as a camper, you can count on being part of a wonderful, talented, kind and fun group of people for the rest of your life. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen your friends for days, months, or many years, you pick up right where you left off.  You see, the songs may change, new buildings go up, new boats replace the old, activities change, and new staff come on board, but the essence of camp remains.

Everyone who goes to camp, young or old, can expect to find acceptance, kindness, encouragement, and support from the people there. And they can build new skills, grow their self esteem, and make life-long friends like mine.

There are a few things I think camp could improve—the beds are a bit hard on my back and the food is okay but I miss the old chicken slop and grilled cheese the way Rosalie made it—but here are a few things I’m glad have lasted and are perfect the way they are:

  • My first roommate Wendy. When I was a Junior Counselor I asked my village chief if I could live with Wendy for the summer because she was so fun and easy going. I am blessed to have Wendy as one of my best friends because every single time I see her she never fails to make me laugh. There’s a lot of other stuff too…
  • My first boss (my village chief), Amy, is also still one of my BFFs. With all due respect to his holiness, Amy is more popular than the Pope and looks better in a dress. I am amazed at her unlimited energy and glad she’s a fighter so we can have her around for many, many more years.
  • My first (one of) counselor, Kathy. Kathy has become one of my best friends and we still laugh at the fact that I was her camper and we used to sing Michael Jackson songs loud and without embarrassment. Kathy knows everyone in Delaware and if she ran for governor today, would win in a landslide.
  • All the other wonderful women I have become close with—some were adopted into the clan and others had my back when I needed to relieve myself in a cornfield—are amazing in their own rights. I am blessed to call them my friends and my sisters.
  • As for the men, sometimes I call them my boys but they are true men. I have always had a tiny crush on each one of them and have also considered them my brothers. These men were exceptional role models for the kids they guided, taught, played with, and protected. I saw them in roles of big brothers and dads before they were mature enough to think that way, and always knew they would be great fathers one day. Some days they teased me and brought me to tears but most days they protected and supported me, accepted me as their friend, and helped me become a better woman. I will always love them and each time they found love, became a parent, accomplished a milestone, or were rewarded for something great, I was overjoyed.

One word? I don’t think so. Here are some other descriptors I heard friends say in their interviews:

Family
Friendship
Love
Priceless

Tockwogh.

Before I leave you with this  poem that one of our alumni read at the campfire to honor our lost friends, I want to say that I’m going to write a book and include the stories I heard this weekend. Some of what was overheard included,

  • “And his hand was in a cast after he punched the horse the second time.”
  • “I had to think for a second, what do you wear to a fire?”

Oh yea, best seller for sure.

“So many things have happened
Since they were called away.
So many things to share with them
Had they been left to stay.
And now on this reunion day,
Memories do come our way.
Though absent, they are ever near,
Still missed, remembered, always dear.”
—Author unknown

This is a song that one of our alumni sang at the campfire. It was a beautiful honor to our friends.

And on to the evidence! Beautiful people, wonderful friends…

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My baby girl kitty cat is missing. I don’t know where she is or if she’s even alive. Some of you may not understand the love and bond you can feel with an animal, but if you do, you know that our little furry companions are part of our families. And when they are lost, it’s a BIG deal.

My little Karma got out of the house last weekend and instead of jumping over to my neighbor’s deck for an hour to sunbathe and stare at their dog through the safety of the glass window, she got lost and has not returned. I don’t know if Greg the owl got her, or if she got hurt in a fight and crawled somewhere to die, or if some kind-hearted person took her in and is feeding her. What I do know is that even with my other pets around, my house feels empty and I miss her very, very much.

For 15 years Karma has made me mad with her scratching up my paperwork, messed up my computer by sitting on it, stuck her paw in my water glass, meowed in my ear when I was sleeping, punched out the dog she resents, and thrown up in my bed. But, over the course of the last horrible year as I cried and cried over the loss of my family, she comforted me. Is she gone for good? I don’t know. It’s like Schrödinger’s cat. (Look it up if you’re not a Big Bang Theory fan or a physicist.)

What I really was moved to write about today is the profound support and help I’ve been getting from my friends and neighbors. My HOA board sent out a blast email for me to alert neighbors about Karma. Other neighbors have physically gone out looking for her and talked to their neighbors to see if they’ve seen anything. I’ve gotten half a dozen phones calls and lots of prayers and support from work colleagues and other friends.

Ten years ago when I moved into this house I thought I’d be here maybe five years then would go on to bigger and nicer digs. Well, obviously life and the economy got in the way of that. And I’m glad. I’ve refinanced twice and am finally fixing up the place because (and I’m just saying God—don’t make this a test or anything) I’m staying. I’ve never lived around such nice, friendly, caring people before. As I get to know more and more of my neighbors (the place is a townhome community with about 500 units), the more I am amazed at what a great place this is and it’s all because of the people here. I don’t know what the magic formula is. We are a mixed bag of races, religions, and ages. There are singles, families, blue and white collar workers, and long-and short-term transplants and locals. Of course there are occasionally the disagreements and issues here and there but I have to give a shout out to my peeps in Amberleigh—there’s lots of “good Karma” in the hood.

So, Karma is still missing and in between my bouts of tears I am getting by because of the amazing and wonderful caring support of my neighborhood family. How blessed am I? Well, God is putting me through some trials this year but he’s also giving me a great support system to survive the storm.

Oh, and if you see my baby, please give me a shout.

Karma, tuxedo cat missing since March 16.

Karma, tuxedo cat missing since March 16.

Karma, sweet kitty hanging on the neighbors deck.

Karma, sweet kitty hanging on the neighbors deck.

Karma boxing with the Grendel dog.

Karma boxing with the Grendel dog.

Karma on her throne. Have cushion, will sleep. Anywhere.

Karma on her throne. Have cushion, will sleep. Anywhere.

The great thing about a personal blog is you can write what you want and how you want. After being passively-aggressively told by a certain person who shall be nameless but who can barely spell that my writing wasn’t compelling enough, I thought I’d give myself a boost and catch up on the ol’ Grendel’s mom blog. There have been so many interesting things happening in the world and funny jokes to share, but oddly enough I’m sitting here with nothing to write about. Hmmm, let’s see what’s been going on…

I went to a fantastic B2B marketing conference in Boston. I’m writing blog posts at work about all the new technology and trends out there. The kitty wanted to come—she got herself all cleaned up and was packing herself in there but alas, she had to stay at home.

 

Iz cleanin the coat before packing it!

My beach house managed to survive Sandy. One of God’s continuous blessings is that our house is in this bubble of safety—it’s kind of like the opposite of the Bermuda triangle. Maybe we should call it the Bethany Rhomboid. I have an Aunt named Sandy. The similarities are striking and I was imagining her sons, whom she lovingly refers to as “little shit” and “pagan,” teasing her relentlessly as the news media talked nonstop of the impending doom from Frankenstorm. Of course my heart and prayers go out to the people who were devastated by the storm and don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for my blessings and luck.

What else. Well, my brother’s birthday (and mine) came and went and that was kind of sad. However, it was Halloween and the plethora of Luigi, princess, and spiderman costumes were enough to bring smiles throughout the evening. I even won a contest at work for best pumpkin.

Turkey pumpkin

But now in the Virginia Crowe household, it’s time for a purge. Whenever I get to the point where I feel I’m bursting at the seams (yes I am trying to work out, but in this instance I mean my house), and I start thinking about how I need to buy some storage item or furniture to contain the mess, I know it’s time for a purge. So I’ve been going through all the closets, drawers, and shelves and tossing. Eight trash bags so far to the dump (those floppy discs, VCR tapes, manuals for appliances long gone, and Internet for Dummy’s books have worn out their welcome). In addition to the trash and recycling, I’ve got another huge pile for a yard sale I’m sure will never happen. If anyone wants a fish tank, wet suit, new lampshade, baby scale, giant teddy bear, or a VCR, come on over.

Bear can go. Cat stays.

It’s also been fun going through all the letters and photos I keep. The art work from my nieces when they were little, the young me—thinner, with longer eyelashes and tight skin—forever captured on film, the diary of a kid who was a boy-crazy and a stupid brat (that would be an even younger me), and notes from loved ones were a delight to go through. That pile was kept for the next purge when I need another reminder of what’s important to hold on to. So while the beautiful leaves on my street have to go each year…

…good friends stick around!

My neighbor John and “mini me” Carter.

With that I say adieu. To you and you and you. To all my friends—I will be scanning some of those old photos and letters and posting them on facebook for the benefit of me getting to laugh at you 20 or so years later. Oh what the heck, here are a few…

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