Playing with the kids at camp

It’s my last full day at Fishtrap, which one participant dubbed “camp with pencils.” We’re near Joseph in far northeastern Oregon, a land of high mountains and real cowboys. We live in tents and yurts, attend workshops, eat cafeteria-style meals, listen to readings every night, and finish off our days with music around the campfire or drinks at Russell’s in Wallowa Lake. At any time of day or night, you can see people huddled over their notebooks or laptop computers writing. It’s as if we have finally found people just like us. These people come in all ages and stages of life.

Fishtrap has a substantial youth program, so there’s a large cadre of teens here. Some have come with their parents or grandparents, each participating in their own programs. Others are here on scholarship with adult chaperones. We also have college-age interns. I’m loving hanging out with the young ones. Last night a high school girl borrowed my guitar and played a great song. You could tell she’s just learning to play, but I felt such a camaraderie, as well as a little motherliness. I’m thrilled at the talent just blooming in these kids.

In my songwriting workshop, we have two college girls, a few baby boomers like me, and Alfred, who is 86 and amazing. We have different levels of life experience and musical training, but we’re all trying to write good songs.

One of our assignments was to interview each other. I traded interviews with Ryann, a senior at Whitman College. She’s beautiful, intelligent, talented and so young. I’m sure I’m way older than her mother, but it’s never as if she’s a kid and I’m an old lady. I’m proud of her and glad to claim her as my friend, and she’s excited when my songs come out well.

There is a beauty in being able to connect with young people who are not our children. I have noticed that the folks who brought their own kids frequently had their writing and socializing interrupted by the needs of their offspring. I didn’t have to worry about that, nor did I have to keep checking in at home.

Childlessness can be tough, but there are ways to bring young people into our lives as their friends, their mentors, their teachers, or their aunts. I highly recommend it.

2 thoughts on “Playing with the kids at camp

  1. I find when I surround myself just right – then I'm “okay” by my childless state. A family baptism yesterday was, at first, a bit sad for me. I know that my brother and sister-in-law are having marital problems. Problems that haven't been solved by a new baby. Still, I was a bit sad and jealous, especially since my husband was the godfather and standing right there with them. There were three babies getting baptised and the first family was so cute. The beautiful baby, two sisters in flowered dresses and matching hats. The mother dressed in a complementary color and the dad with a tie that matched everyone. They absolutely beamed. It was their third child, but they acted like it was the first. When they posed before the altar, the mother looked up at the father and they shared a look that just said, “How lucky are we?” It was lovely.Still I was able to feel blessed. We shared the car trip there with another in-law and their three children, all of which excitedly told me about their swimming lessons, recent movie trip (I'm told the movie Brave is VERY good), and the adventures on their recent family vacation. When I arrived at the church another four nieces and nephews ran to hug me.During the service, another niece insisted on sitting on my lap the whole time. My heart sang.At the party after, a whole gaggle of them were excited to show ME the playground. I felt very loved and I found myself enjoying the children without having to fix a plate of food for anyone. I didn't have to drag my sweaty child into the small playground bathroom. I didn't have to watch the playground while the adults chatted.At the end of the day, my husband and I watched a ball game on TV, ate potato chips for dinner and didn't fuss with anyone. It was nice but still a little lonely. But this is our life right now. The good and the bad.


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