Family traditions have to start somewhere and my family is just getting started. So, I’m planting some good, solid roots that can grow into long established traditions in years to come. A dream of mine is to someday own a lake house where my family can gather and spend lazy days and nights gathered around delicious meals and campfires. As of now I don’t have that lake house of my dreams, so for now, I’m planting the seeds of summer time vacations spent together at a place that is very close to my heart, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
As a little girl, for 5 summers I took the ride up to Elkhart Lake to spend my summer at Harand Theater Camp…..a fairy tale memory of childhood dreams of endless days and nights, bonfires and beach games, swimming and roller skating and all that magically happened in between. When thoughts of summer camp roll around in my head, I remember friends as they were in camp t-shirts eating ice cream cones and opening care packages, sitting on bunk beds and passing pitchers of bug juice down long tables of laughing campers excited to embark on the night’s next activity.
In the heart of camp sat the main building (which was appropriately called Wonderful Town) that over the years has served different purposes to different owners which I learned as I walked down the halls of the now beautiful, family-friendly resort that sits on what used to be Harand Camp. Old photographs of generations from even before Camp Harand was in existence tell the stories of what had come before. I imagined what those people would have thought had they visited our camp years after the land had changed from the way they had known it. Nostalgia abounding, my mind was spinning with curiosity about the people that have wandered those grounds over the years.
It’s still hard for me to stretch my mind enough to remember where the cabins sat, where the lush green pastures lay and how that piece of land could have possibly been the same place that pops up in my dreams so regularly. But somehow, in my dreams, the lawn is untouched and every inch is as it was decades ago. But as I walk the property with my daughters telling them stories of why there are concrete handprints from friends I knew back then that I am still happy to call my friends today, I try my best to realize exactly what has replaced those treasured buildings from my childhood.
As I enjoyed a peaceful massage at what is now a beautiful spa, in my mind I could hear the sounds of the screen door slamming and friends laughing and running around on the porch of Wonderful Town. When I left the spa, my mind projected campers running to Sam’s Place (our dining hall) and as I turned to walk back to my room, I heard echoes of campers singing “No Man Is An Island” in Gaffin Theater as if Uncle Byron himself were on stage leading the group. I began to think….even if camp was still standing as it were when I was a little girl, I would still never be able to go back to those memories the way they live in my head. I keep those in my mind and just being there helps me to remember.
The corner of the world where Camp Harand stood for all those years has been my Giving Tree throughout my life. As bittersweet as it has always been since the minute I heard that camp Harand as I knew it was coming to an end, during this trip to Elkhart Lake I came to peace with that end as if finding a resolution to a long time quarrel. I discovered a beautiful PEARL that has been resting there, waiting for me to find it. What was once a childhood fantasy has now become a family wonderland. This place has changed through the years almost identically to fit my needs and for that I have found a way to be grateful.