How Camp is a Second Home

The incredible thing about sending your child off to overnight camp for a third summer is this: you don’t have butterflies when the car pulls out of the driveway and you wave goodbye and you don’t wonder whether he’s okay. You know he’s at another home, the soul-home a special summer place, a special summer community holds. I’ll pull into the driveway at Journey’s End Farm Camp and see beauty. I won’t see “home” the way he does, though; it’s his soul-home not mine. I can’t describe how happy this makes me. This is one of those invisible rudders inside him now. I know camp will help him to sail long beyond this or any other summer.

Still, I’ve written every single day (of course, it’s an opportunity for mail-loving me) and I miss his smile and Saskia has forgotten a couple of times that he’s at camp and comes into the kitchen to ask, “Where’s Remy?” as if he’s about to walk through the door. He’s gone for two weeks, so no, not yet.

At Journey’s End Farm Camp, 2010

As someone with such a strong belief in camp, it’s no wonder that Sibling Connections’—an organization, which reunites siblings who have been separated from one another in foster care to spend some time together—annual summer initiative Camp to Belong seems like one of those genius soul-home creations. For a week, siblings enjoy camp—together, with other siblings doing the same—and lots of support by caring, able volunteers to ensure the week is not only fun and well supervised but also emotionally safe.

Judy Cockerton, founder of Treehouse Foundation and engine behind Camp to Belong, wrote last summer: “Every day kids tell me how much it means to them to sit at a table and share meals with their sisters and brothers. They say they feel just like their peers who have not been removed from their homes and placed in foster care.”

I get teary whenever I think about it.


Earlier this week, I read my friend Carrie’s blog about her and her daughter visiting with Katie’s birth mom and siblings (her words). This moment she described struck me, the one when they were all on the giant hotel room bed to watch a movie and Carrie retreated, purposefully, to a book while Katie got to hang with this family of hers. There were, for Katie, as there are for many kids adopted or in foster care, hard questions, like why doesn’t this other family of mine have enough money for the things we have? Reuniting isn’t without complications. But holding the fullness of our stories is how they really become ours.

As a parent, I hope that I can encourage—and help provide—the opportunities for soul-homes and fullness of stories.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

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