I think most of us can relate to missing our mums most when we are sick. Such is the case for me tonight, as I sit at Camp Kitchi, in my cabin, sniffling and sweating, downing the unpleasant yet efficient Oil of Oregano, and wishing that Mum was here to tuck me in.

It was 30 years ago that I first sat in this cabin on Beausoleil Island, attending camp for the first time that sun-filled August. I didn’t know a soul, and was struggling with being homesick. I missed my bed. I missed my Barbies. I missed my Pop Shoppe pop, and most of all, I missed Mum and Dad. That summer, Mum had bought me a sleek black Speedo bathing suit, that was a little overpriced for a kid who was growing like a bean pole. Somehow, I persuaded Mum into buying me the suit in Gardner Sports on Dunlop Street in Barrie, and was overjoyed that I’d have a cool suit to wear at camp. I’d been there for three days, and realized that someone had swiped my suit off the clothesline, outside of our cabin. I was mortified. In letters to Mum I begged her to come and pick me up and take me home. At that point, I still hadn’t made great connections with my cabin mates, it was cloudy and rainy for two days, and I lost my blessed bathing suit. Clearly, this place was not for me. I wanted to go home.

On the fourth day Lori my counselor, after making inquiries, returned triumphantly to our cabin, with my bathing suit in her hand. I’m still not sure who took it, but the amount of elation I felt upon its return was astounding. The sun began to shine, I relished showing off my swim skills in the Speedo, and crewed for a cool senior kid named Tannis, during the sailing races at free time. One day we had Big and Little Sister Day, and I felt so hip hanging out with Gwen for the day, who was in Senior One, and almost 16. She and I dressed alike for meals, ate together, and strolled the beach getting to know one another. It was such a treat for me to have an “older” sister; at home I was the older sister, and my sister Michelle and I didn’t really get off to a great start when I took her outside and tried to sell her to various neighbours when she was not even one. Here at Kitchi, I got to be the young one, the one with all the attention being lavished upon, the one who got to play with my counselor’s hair, and the one being protected. The next letter to Mum relayed all of my newfound friends and fun forays under the Georgian Bay skies; the only request was that we go to Pizza Hut right after she picked me up from the water taxi at Honey Harbour. That road seemed like it stretched for miles back then; the anticipation of coming to camp, and the anticipation of Pizza Hut after camp. Now, the road is no more than a quick jaunt. It’s amazing how with age and experience our perception of time evolves. Everything is getting exponentially faster these days.

When I first came to Kitchi, I felt as if I’d come “home”. Here was a place set amidst such breathtaking beauty on the Canadian Shield that I have not yet seen. Even then, in my youth, innocence and naïveté, I realized that this place was special. I stopped coming when I was about 22 in university, after I had been on senior staff for several years. For the past decade I’ve come up here to teach yoga and pilates at the Wellness Weekends, offered each fall here at camp. For me, it is a bitter sweet journey as I remember bringing Mum here years ago, taking her for her first canoe ride, and sharing a sunset with her at the Lighthouse on the western part of the Island. I’m here now after a weekend of teaching yoga, and tomorrow I take a group of seven grade 10 girls for a 4 day hiking and camping trip around the island. I just can’t seem to leave this place.

It is tonight, in the warmth of my sleeping bag, in the same cabin where I wrote those letters of despair then joy that I think of her. Homesickness washes over me as I sit in the dark on my bunk, alone in the cabin, and type words onto a screen. I won’t be writing and mailing Mum any letters on this trip, but as I step outside the cabin and look up to the sky and see the myriad stars, I know that she is already “reading my mail”. I think back to the times when she visited me on the island, bringing me Pringles and red licorice and tales of Dad’s endeavours with his new Windsurfer in the late 80s. I think of the many friendships that were formed here, and have endured, spanning three decades. I think of stolen kisses late at night at Sunset Rock (mistakenly known to the boys as “Champlain’s”). I think of gorp on canoe trips and giggling into the wee hours in our tents. I think of the heartaches caused by sun-kissed boys, who decided they had crushes on somebody else. I think of the words spoken and sung in the Dining Hall and the Chapel. I think of all of this, and I realize: I am home.

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