camp

A Moment, 17 Years in the Making

Seventeen years ago I was forced to go to church camp…not just any church camp but choir camp. My family and I had just moved back to Michigan from Pennsylvania and this was going to be a “great way to meet people.” At 13 years old, I was less than impressed by the prospect of going to a nerdy bible camp where we had to sing all day, every day. I can’t carry a tune and had no interest in learning but my mother forced me to go.
And (long before today) I was so grateful.
When I timidly stepped into the musty, dingy cabin with my turquoise sleeping bag under my arm a bright bubbly blonde interrupted my 13 year old angst-y thoughts.
“Hi! I’m Amy!” She said. She was a magical ray of sunshine in that dark, dreary cabin.
And that is how I met one of my oldest friends. We survived middle school and high school together having an occasional class together , we grew up in the church choir room together, four more years of choir camp, and then we went our separate ways to college. But we still had our chats on the dock of Walnut Lake, cinnamon toast from Einstein’s, we traveled around the world separately, we both got married back at home and then we both moved away.
After fifteen years of friendship, I got the most wonderful news! After a long road, she and her husband were expecting twins. I was thrilled and deeply saddened at the same time. This was the time that Matt and I had been trying for over a year. We had decided not to share our news or lack of news with anyone to try and avoid undue stress. But when I found out that she was pregnant, I knew she could be someone to reach out to. She talked me off many levels of ledges and our friendship grew in a completely different direction.
A few months later, we were pregnant too! We literally grew out together during this time. We were 700 miles apart but it was as though we were sitting on the dock sharing our stories, thoughts, and worries along the way.
Last week, we spent time together. In person. With our children. We drank coffee and cinnamon toast and traded stories of how wonderful a blessing our children have been to us. And conversely how awful and lonely mother hood can be. How messy. How grumpy. How exhausting.
Our kids played near each other, stole each other’s food, and drank out of each other’s sippy cups and we watched the three of them in awe. She reaffirmed my parenting style and I told her how beautiful her children were. We reminisced. We laughed. I cried.
Big sappy tears: Tears of happiness; to finally have a friend who understands without judgment. Tears of sorrow; for knowing our visit was going too fast. And tears of joy because how lucky am I to have had a friend for seventeen years for many seasons of life? How blessed. How magical.

the six of us

Categories: baby, camp, friendship | Leave a comment

Choir Camp in the Nursery

It’s amazing that ten years ago while in college, I could stay up until two a.m. without blinking a sleepy eye. Today, while I’m usually awake at 2 a.m. it is preceded by a few hours of sleep. When I creep into Cameron’s room to change his diaper and nurse him, I try and keep the mood quiet, dreamlike so he will drift back into a sleepy slumber.

Most nights I am successful.

Every so often, he will require a little more effort on my part. If I put him back in his crib before he is ready, he lets me know, usually about the time I make my way back to my room and crawl under the covers. It doesn’t matter if I wait in his nursery to ensure he is soundly sleeping for 30 seconds or ten minutes. He knows when I get back to my room and snuggle under the blankets and just as I sigh with relief for my impending three hour nap, he murmurs a bit and then lets out his angry cry, “momma, I was not done cuddling you yet, come back.”

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So I dart back to the nursery, so Matt can keep sleeping (and yes, I’m tired but I realize the need for momma snuggles is fleeting). I pick up my sad little boy and put him up on my shoulder to comfort him. I inhale his lavender shampoo and kiss his hairy head. Some nights we rock, some nights we dance. But all nights are accompanied by my loving, quiet singing, albeit out of tune. I don’t think he minds though.

What songs come to mind in the wee hours? Matt claims the only songs he can recall in the middle of the night when he brain is clouded with exhaustion are inappropriate rap songs. One night I overheard him on the monitor singing Sublime, “ What I Got” editing the lyrics for our young audience. (To be fair – he can also be overheard making up his own love songs to our son when he draws a blank).

I, however, go back to the songs that always brought me comfort. Church songs, hymns, campfire tunes, Vacation Bible School ditties. I like to know all the words to the songs I choose and since those songs are shorter and have been in my life for more than two decades, I know them all by heart.

I open with the song, “Sing, sing it out loud.” It’s the song that most Choir Camp campfires began with and seems like the perfect opener to my early morning set. I usually follow with any song in a foreign language because it takes more effort and ensures that I will not drift back to sleep in the middle of the chorus. “Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos’” – the Zulu song that translates – We are marching in the light of God and “Alabaré, Alabaré, Alabaré A mi Señor” – Spanish for “We will praise the Lord” and my favorite” Ki mu nki maa nyi, Bu li mun tu al in a en sii go, Om ut ima gwo gu ku lung ‘aa mye, Bu li mun tu al in a en sii go”– the Lugandan song, “Everybody has a Seed to Sow.”

It’s been almost eleven years since I’ve been a choir camper but the songs are etched in my memories as if I were just singing them yesterday in my hot pink Choir Camp tee shirt, jeans, flip flops and French braids. It’s amazing to be able to sing these songs to my son and at the same time recalling the incredible friendships and memories from the five years I was a camper and three as a counselor.

And while his nursery smells of the pink Johnson and Johnson baby lotion and A&D ointment, not well water, bug spray and campfires. And the paint that covers the walls is a fresh gray and turquoise and not musty wood covered in cobwebs. And the floor is soft, white, plush carpet not gritty, sandy, cement that inevitably ends up at the end of your sleeping bag. Somehow – despite all that- sometimes at 2 a.m. I am transported back to a cabin at Camp Lael.

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I wonder if Cameron will love singing as much as I do. I wonder what his summer memories will be made of. I wonder if he thinks his momma sings off key and sometimes messes up the words.

Probably not.

For now, I am content knowing that his early morning feedings are accompanied by the songs that comfort me and by the songs that tell Bible stories that will help him to grow into a man of God.

Sing, sing it out loud
Sing it so everyone can hear,
Let it begin it’s ringing in every listening ear right now
Lifting our praise unto the one who brought us here
Lifting our hearts to Jesus whose name we gladly sing!

Categories: baby, camp, family, newborns, parenting, singing, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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