May 12, 2017
On one June morning in the summer of 2010 I climbed into the back of the Schundler’s SUV to begin what would be the most anxious eight hour journey of my life. Going to camp for the first time as a friend of the Schundler’s meant that I was not only going to an entirely new place for an entirely unprecedented amount of time, but also that I had to uphold the multi-decade legacy that was the Schundler family at Chop Point Camp. Whatever stress this may have caused me for those very uneasy eight hours fell away almost immediately upon arrival. I ran into three counselors during the walk from the car to the lodge for check-in, all of which miraculously knew my name before I had introduced myself. Everybody in the office knew who I was – even nurse Kez seemed to know me before I could get both of my feet into the infirmary to discuss my list of medical ailments. It is safe to say I was suddenly very thankful for that multi-decade legacy that I had spent so many hours worrying about.
After check-in I was shown the way to my cabin where I would be living for the better part of the next month. Here I found an equally shaggy-haired and equally nervous-looking boy putting on a bathing suit. He showed me where the waterfront was and we conquered our swim tests together, and for lack of a better cliché, the rest is history. Every little worry that had been swimming around in my head for the last few weeks began disappearing one by one. The people were genuinely kind, the food was great, the landscape was gorgeous and the activities were enthralling. And yes, even as a text message obsessed teenager, I even became grateful for the three-week departure from technology. It became quickly apparent to me that the lack of access to my cell phone and my computer was in no way a negative aspect of my experience. In fact, I struggle to recall a single instance of missing my phone at all – it was simply not something that I had time to think about. Frisbee became more important than Facebook and evening activities took priority over emails. This, for me, is the only single-sentence descriptor of the Chop Point experience that there is. I challenge anybody that does find themselves at camp this summer or any summer in the future to attempt this task upon the conclusion of their stay – try to fit your entire experience into one sentence; you’ll see what I mean.
The aspect of Chop Point that I love the most is the one that took me the longest to figure out – perhaps because it is something I could only dig into looking back at my years as a camper. It sounds like an annoyingly generic claim you might see on a brochure or something – but there legitimately is one space or another where absolutely anybody can excel at camp. I could run and jump and catch, so Frisbee became my thing. I knew thirteen-year-old kids out there on the Kennebec sailing better than counselors twice their age. I knew girls who were so mind-bogglingly talented at making friendship bracelets that they spent practically all of their free time filling orders for their friends. I knew counselors who were so good at communicating answers to my questions that I would come up with a new one every day just to have another conversation. Camp quickly became, without exaggeration, my favorite place on the planet. One morning during that first summer I can remember coming to this realization while sitting on my rock. I had taken a liking to this rock because it was a bit of a vantage point that overlooked our section of the river and the dining hall – seven years later I have yet to find a view that I like more. Dave found me out there on my rock and came over to sit next to me – I assume to see how I was acclimating to the camp environment. We talked for a few minutes about my lack of homesickness and my justification for loving that rock so much. It was almost immediately apparent to both of us, I think, that I was right where I needed to be.