07 May 2015.
I was at the traffic signal today when a flash of yellow seen through the corner of my eye, distracted me. I turned my attention and realised it was an entire mob of yellow. A string of children jumping out of a bus; tired, hoarse but happy children. Glad to be back on familiar grounds but sad to leave behind the wonderful euphoria called Camping.
The traffic signal is ticking away at 85 seconds. And so I allow myself a wave of nostalgia…
It was the summer of 2007 when I first experienced it. A wildlife camp with Foliage Outdoors; the spark that ignited a love affair. I remember like yesterday how easily I was asked to consider volunteering. How apprehensive both parties were. I was just about twice the age of the children I’d be ‘babysitting’! Not sure that’s old enough, not sure how confident parents would be entrusting their precious wards in my care.
To be honest, I was low on confidence too. The thought of taking care of 35 odd kids for 2 entire days, all aged about 6 – 7 years freaked me out. And so we set off….
My first night as a volunteer was a living nightmare. Imagine this: 20 little girls, all wailing their hearts out for their parents. Convinced dearly that a tiger was knocking on the room door. Hell bent on the fact that the one safe haven for them was in my arms. And as much as I tried to dissuade them, I failed at each step. Two rooms full of girls poured into my room, on to my bed to be precise and thus began a struggle to snuggle into bed. I had girls hanging on to any body part of mine they could catch hold of. Sleep was a word unknown to me that night. And yet, as those tiny little arms wrapped themselves around me and drifted into deep sleep, something inside me was deeply touched. I was a stranger, a person perhaps they’d never again see in their lives once the night was past. And yet, tonight they trusted me with all their hearts. They found peace and quiet, a tranquillity spread on the faces of these angels. Their sleepy hugs the next morning nudged love into my heart. I knew this was a feeling I would never again be able to live without. It was a summer fling, that was fast going to get serious…
For the next 8 years, I have not looked back. Seasons after seasons of camps; kids, teenagers, families, grandparents. I met them in all shapes and sizes. Some were infatuated, some were impressed. Some complimented me, some guided me, some even lovingly scolded me! As the growing up phases of life caught up with me, my availability towards camping lessened. But stop, it will never. Because the love received from so many people lingers on…For that summer fling, has grown into something serious.
As I stood at the signal now down to 30 seconds, I realised how much I miss the innocence of it all. Today lost in all the responsibilities of “life”, that purity of emotions is lost. If someone is being nice, there always has to be catch. Because why would anyone care to be nice, if nothing is to be gained in return?
But then I think back to a phone call I received two days ago. She was my camper years ago. A beautiful 10-year old girl. Today, she is 16 and two camps down with me. No longer strangers but definitely nothing more than camp friends. A friendship that thrives on just camp memories. And yet her impromptu and innocent “I miss you” shattered all my beliefs.
What I had thought as a summer fling, had indeed turned into something serious…
07 May 2015.