By Iris Krasnow
After a two-hour plane ride from Baltimore, and a four-hour drive from the Milwaukee airport, I am finally on a reddish dirt road dusted in crusty pine needles approaching camp. My stomach lurches and tears well up in my eyes when I see the rustic sign that spells AGAWAK!The familiar rush of recognition overwhelms me, that sense of “I am home”. I have come home again to the beloved camp where I went from girl to woman, with cabin-mates that remain the best of the best friends. We end each campfire singing this iconic song, sung by campers across America: “Friends, friends, friends…whether in fair or in dark stormy weather, we will always be, the truest the finest…”Those lyrics I have been singing at Camp Agawak since my first summer here in 1963 have proven to be so true. The young girls have yet to realize this today, though I see their lifelong friendships blossoming everywhere I look at camp.
They are laughing and singing as they race excitedly from swimming to tennis to candle-making. They greet each other with hugs each morning at the flagpole, and they travel in tight, joyful circles as they stream to their cabins when evening activities end. These packs of camp friends that start as strangers will turn into sisters, born not of blood but of history and loyalty as they return each year. More than a half-century has passed since I was the eight-year-old starting my own Agawak history. This feeling of belonging, of homecoming to a family, has remained unchanged. I watch this generation, happy at camp, happy just to be together wherever they are on our beautiful grounds, and my whole girlhood shoots through me.
I walk on paths and over gnarled roots, I have memorized over the decades and I reflect on what camp has meant for me. This place is the spine of a long and productive life, and as an author who began her literary career writing for Agalog, long ago. The best of who I am was formed at Camp Agawak, and I see these character traits strengthening in your daughters that return each year -- independence, perseverance, responsibility, and so many more lasting attributes that come from the camper experience. What a gift you have given your children by sending them to Agawak. These traits forming in childhood will help propel them into successful adulthood. I am 64-years young because of the resilience, drive, and versatility I gained from my ten years as a camper and a counselor.
We are encouraged from a very early age to keep pushing and persevering in new sports and activities, and not to give up. We gain self-esteem from finally achieving a goal and we learn tenacity to keep trying when we fail. I will never forget the exhilaration that filled all of me when I finally got up skis and then crossed both wakes at the age of nine, this after week after week of falling as soon as the boat lurched forward. Your girls are learning the value of trying and trying, again and again, each day at Agawak. It is because of your inspiring and loving and determined daughters, that I am still growing up as I watch them grow up. The girls in my Agalog writing activity tell me that they feel the same sentiment I feel when I finally get to camp after ten months away – a powerful, all-encompassing HOMECOMING!