When I was fifteen years old I met my future husband at band camp. We were married five years later and as we approach our 20th anniversary (yes—you mommy math whizzes—that makes me 40), and I prepare to send my own kids to camp, I find myself reminiscing about that momentous summer. And being pretty freaked out about what my kids are about to do.

Sleepaway camps were nothing new. I went to two different week long Norwegian camps at ages of 10 and 11 and had a lot of opportunities for away-from-home travel growing up. This was to be my second year at band camp and several of my friends from the previous year would be back. I was in grade 10 and all knowing. But never in a million years did I think that a lunch break shared with my ‘best friend’s friend’ and my ‘best friend’s friend’s roommate’ would spell love, never mind ‘forever love’. Forever love was on my mind, though. I was an avid romance novel reader at that point in my teenage life and I absolutely believed I’d meet eyes with the most handsome, amazing guy and fall head over heels. I didn’t assume I would argue with my BFF over the name of my future husband—and be wrong.

He was a computer loving, trombone playing senior and I was a cheerleading, tennis playing flautist starting my sophomore year. We spent all of our free time together the rest of the week. We went to a movie and held hands. He even kissed me.

And then, just like that, band camp was over. His home was three hours from mine, so we started writing letters. And one day, I called him. After 7 pm when long distance charges were less. I blurted out, “Hi! This is JOY. From band camp!” as though we hadn’t written multiple letters back and forth by this time (courtships have certainly been expedited by the advent of email and text.) We arranged to meet at my house. His parents came along to make sure my family wasn’t the axe-murdering type. After that, there were dances, prom, and eventually—a proposal. Today, we’re a happily married couple, parents to four amazing kids, and an active and adventurous family.

The last thing I expected to find at camp was a life partner. Maybe a new friend or two, definitely a pen pal or six, and I certainly counted on better flute skills—but a husband wasn’t even on my teenage radar.

Now my children are nearing the age for sleep away camp and I find myself both excited and terrified. Will their escapades shape their lives as mine did? Will they make it through the week without needing me to come take them home? Anything could happen, but I’m sure of one thing: I won’t hesitate to let them go. My experience must be unusual, but an environment where lifelong memories are built is not, and mine have given me a deep and diverse well of experiences to draw from. From working on a 24-hour mission at Space Camp to helping a sick friend at Norwegian Camp to getting kicked out of Blue Bird Camp (yup, that’s a story for another day), I gained a perspective of the world around me that I tap into frequently to this day.

And I can’t wait to see what my children’s adventures will be…


1991: That look on my face says it all.