As I browsed a ladies’ magazine, two words caught my attention, evoking a strong memory.
I am eleven years old again. I stand at the dining room windows, looking outside, without really seeing anything, because I’m sobbing and tears block my vision. My very heart has been ripped from me.
I am empty, hollow, feeling a void so vast nothing can fill it.
Mom, why did you have to go to Church Camp to be a counselor? You’ll be gone all week, then I’ll come to camp and you’ll go home. I can’t bear to be without you for two long weeks. How will I survive?
The tears won’t stop. I can’t control myself and I cry harder. Hope has fled with my mother. I’m in utter despair.
“Pam! Quit your crying and come away from that window!”
What? Dad never talks to me like that.
I turn away from the window, go to my room and shut the door. I want to be alone where I can cry without being ridiculed – at least that’s what it feels like to me. Nobody understands how I feel. It’s not fair. I don’t even understand how I feel. All I know is, I’m lost and alone, and I have no one to comfort me.
Somehow I make it through the next week. Dad apologizes to me for his sharp tone. I settle into a routine of doing some of the cooking and cleaning in mom’s absence.
The day comes for my twin brother and me to leave for camp. I ride up there on the bus with the rest of the kids. The road is windy; twisting and turning like my emotions. When we get there, I get off the bus, stop dead in my tracks and stare. It’s so beautiful up here. Large pine trees surround the log buildings; the air filled with their scent.
We’re instructed to go to the main building… and that’s when I see her.
Ecstatic to see her, my face breaks into a megawatt smile. As I think of her getting on the bus though, my brief moment of joy shatters. Emptiness fills me and I start to cry; the beauty I was just reveling in, forgotten.
I feel her soft, warm arms wrap me in a hug as she speaks words of comfort to my heart. “Shhh, you’ll be alright. Everything’s going to be okay.”
“But…” the tears start afresh, spilling over and running down my cheeks. “I want to go home with you. Do I have to stay?” My voice has a definite whine to it.
Mom takes my face in her hands. Love flows from her eyes into mine. “Susie-Q, you will have a wonderful time here. Give it a chance. You’re going to stay here and I’m going to get on that bus and go home. Trust me.” Her words are gentle, but firm.
Eventually she does get on the bus. I stand waving a tearful goodbye as I watch it fade into the distance.
I finally turn away, make my way to my cabin and meet my cabin mates. The tears quickly fade as we introduce ourselves and immediately come up with nicknames for each other. I’m dubbed, Spam, and another girl, Bones. One or two other girls run around with us that week; we have a blast together. Like Anne of Green Gables has with Diana, I’ve found kindred spirits.
Our days are filled with fun at meals, craft time where we make lanyards, midnight raids on the boys’ cabins, dips in the pool, campfires where we sing goofy songs – one I still remember almost forty years later. We also learn about God at these campfires, of course. My heart is deeply touched by the serious songs we sing, such as, I have Decided to Follow Jesus, and the messages we hear from God’s Word.
I leave camp full of hope and joy, as I know God has met me there and helped me to give my sadness to Him. I let Him help me with the empty pain of being separated from my mom and in return He gives me a cup full to overflowing as I have learned what it is to step out of myself, reaching out to others in friendship.
I have to admit there is a hint of sadness leaving my new friends, but the joy of being with my mom again once I’m home, washes it away.
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