Letters Home: A Family Legacy of Campers


In 1934, my grandmother started a tradition that has since touched the lives of my mother, my sister, me and now my daughter – four generations of Fleur de Lis Camp girls!

 

Recently, my grandmother came across letters my mother had written home when she was a camper at Fleur de Lis in 1965. At that time, my mother was just 13, and camp was about seeing friends, partaking in activities and being herself. She had no idea then just how much Fleur de Lis Camp would come to mean to her – and now 49 years later – to my daughter and to me.

 

When I saw the letters, I couldn’t wait to read them. As I read I realized nothing has changed. My mother’s letters were much like mine. The activities she took were the same: water skiing, arts and crafts, riflery and surfing. She was having fun and had little time to write home.

 

The first time I read the letters through, I read them through the eyes of one who’d also been a Fleur de Lis camper. But in my second reading, I noticed things more from a parent’s perspective. She wrote about having fun. She signed her letters “Love.” She was learning to solve her own “problems.” She was managing her own needs. One letter she even forgot to sign. (Pulling from my own experiences, I’m sure something more fun than letter writing was happening and thoughts of connecting to home were quickly dropped so she could join in the fun.)

 

This year, on June 21, my 8-year-old daughter Hannah will head off to Fleur de Lis as a first-time overnight camper. The thought brings tears of joy and pride to my eyes. It also brings worries: Will she be strong enough to get through those moments of homesickness at bedtime? Will she remember to bathe and brush her hair? Will she remember to keep her wet bathing suit out of her trunk? And the biggest question of all: Will she have the same love for Fleur de Lis that three generations before her have?

 

I have no doubt she’ll make friends and love the activities, games and crafts. I have no doubt the counselors will help her learn the ropes and about herself. I have no doubt she’ll grow and come home more responsible than she left. In my heart, I expect she will come to love this simple place called camp, and that another layer to our relationship as mother and daughter will be added because of it. 

 

My daughter was given her first trunk this past Christmas. She is excited to start filling it with her bedding, flashlight and other camp gear. Yet I see a little hesitation in her eyes and inquire about it. “What if I don’t make a friend?” she says.

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For the last two summers, we have gone to Fleur de Lis Camp’s Big and Little Weekend. My daughter is so excited for our one-on-one time together and counts the days until that weekend. However, as soon as we walk into the cabin with our sleeping bags, she is already running out the door with a friend to play tetherball, laughing and shouting. I know she’ll make immediate friends upon opening day of camp – friends who will become her confidants about boys, college and peer pressure and may one day be at her wedding, sharing in the joys of her family and even sitting beside her at funerals. I know this because my camp friends were immediate and continue to be with me on my life’s journey. 

 

In the meantime, I can’t wait to receive my first letter home from my camper. I am hopeful it will be full of fun and happy news, like my mom’s letters were in 1965. I am prepared to hear about her learning how to cope and solve problems, too.  I know when that letter comes I will read it over and over, and my heart will be filled with joy.

 

Christine Cressey, the mother of Hannah who will start camp this year and who lives in Amesbury, was a Fleur De Lis camper from 1988 to 1994. Her mother, Shirley Maynard, a camper from 1960 to 1965, is serving this year as a volunteer counselor for the first annual Circle of Fleur de Lis Camp for Grieving Girls, a free week of camp for girls who have suffered the loss of a parent. Cressey’s grandmother, Nancy Maynard, attended the camp from 1934 to 1943. 

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27 Feb 2014


By Christine Cressey
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