First Impressions by Iris Krasnow
Each week in our Agalog activity, the writing program at camp, I assign a theme. This first week I have asked the new campers to write about “First Impressions”, to document how they felt when they first walked off the bus into a sea of smiling strangers who would soon become their counselors.
As I am composing this blog, I am looking at Cabin 3, where I lived at the age of 8 in 1963 – my own first year as a camper at Agawak. I tell the girls how much has changed – there were only five girls in my cabin and 96 campers in the whole camp all those decades ago. We were required to wear uniforms – powder blue shirts and navy bottoms by day; white shirts and navy blue bottoms at night. And to swim, we were all in one-piece navy blue bathing suits.
They look at me with open-mouthed surprise when I tell them there were no tutus, or bikinis or yoga pants allowed. Then, I’m asked by one 8-year-old new camper, “What hasn’t changed?” It is easy for me to answer that question.
What hasn’t changed is that the Agawak girls walk around camp singing, laughing, arm-in-arm. What hasn’t changed is that they often return year after year, and make their best friends here on these gorgeous grounds. What hasn’t changed is that Blue and White games still spark ear-splitting cheering and passionate competition, and instills courage and tenacity in every camper.
What hasn’t changed is that, every day, your girls push through their fears and become bolder and more adventurous. They say “I can”, more than “I can’t” as the climb Tango Tower for the first time, or get up on water-skis – on their seventh or eighth try.
What hasn’t changed is that each girl learns how to navigate friendships in close cabin quarters with other girls far different than her. This, when there is no Mommy or Daddy around, to help them make new friends – they do this on their own.
Counselors, of course, help the bonding process, though it is each girl who learns how to fend for herself. Most of all, each girl, your girls, learn the value of spreading kindness and compassion – to not only stand up for herself, but to stand up for others.
I am 67 years young, and I still go to camp. Agalog, all those years ago, is where I got my literary start. My career path from Agawak turned me into a journalist and an author of several books, and who knows? We may be grooming future authors at Agalog, though this I know for certain:
Even if the girls in our writing program do not become published writers, there are activities here at camp and friendships they are making that are helping to form the solid foundation for the rest of their lives.
Good choice, parents, for sending your children here! I thank my late parents in my heart every day, for making me a lifelong Agawak girl!