A Love Letter To My Second Home

June 20, 2024
Jenna Barr

Longmeadow, Massachusetts, United States

Class of 2026

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My entire school year is spent waiting around for summer. From my perspective, my years are measured in summers. When summer comes, at least for me, school is all a blur. I long for when I can stargaze on dewy fields with my friends instead of writing an essay on a novel I barely understand.

The only thing I have to worry about over the summer is getting my summer reading done and remembering to put on sunscreen so I don’t get sunburnt. It’s the season I feel happiest, and have the most freedom. My anxiety disappears and the hot weather reappears. I finally have the opportunity to wear the tank tops I bought on a trip to the mall in the winter.

But, my summers aren’t like many other people who I pass by in the halls daily. Since 2018, the majority of my summer has been spent at Camp Laurelwood, in Madison, Connecticut. The most time I’ve spent at camp is 7 weeks, away from my parents, dogs, and all of my home friends. Many of my friends say they would never be able to leave their friends and family for that long, but I wanted to incorporate something extremely fulfilling and special into my life.

As a camper, I’ve been without my phone, only communicating through letters and care packages from family and friends. My stack of mail piles up with handwritten notes, postcards, rainbow stationery, and other little trinkets my aunt always sends me. Every piece of mail is different, including my friends telling me about a new girl who moved to Longmeadow or my mom telling me my dogs recently got groomed.  

I keep in contact with all my friends and old counselors throughout the year, catching each other up on our lives. We share the new gossip at school, fresh relationships, bad test scores, and random thoughts. It feels like there is no filter.  

Whenever I’m sad, I simply reflect on my camera roll, to reminisce about when life was warm and simple. The vibrant photos in the pool, pictures of us hugging on Friday nights for Shabbat, and the blurry GoPro selfies.

My camp friends are at the top of my list. My home friends shame me for it, but there’s no other group of girls I trust more. It may be because I’ve lived with them for 7 weeks, once spent 3 weeks in Costa Rica with them, and had to deal with their wild personalities, but that's a different story.  

Every staff member from the UK to Israel has a special place in my heart. When I read back on the little notes they write for Shabbat, called Shabbat-O-Grams, a smile quickly forms on my face, and the worries of everything around me go away. I quickly realized camp is one of the few places I’m valued for who I truly am. 

Overnight camp, but more Camp Laurelwood, is an experience unlike any other. Many people don’t spend their summers dancing around a mess hall to Taylor Swift and circus music, getting ready in an untidy bunk with their best friends for Shabbat, and watching a fire-building competition to see who can burn the rope above the fastest.

As I get older, I reflect on all my amazing memories and friendships. This upcoming summer, I’ll be a staff member in training.  It’s scary to think that the SITs I had are now grown adults in their final years of college. 

 I am now the age I looked up to growing up as a little girl, with blue glasses, and a quiet personality. My shy personality has slowly faded, and it is all because of Camp Laurelwood, my second home.  

I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t agree to letting my mom sign me up. I am the fourth generation in my family to go to Camp Laurelwood. After spending my summers up until I was 10 with my family and home friends, overnight camp was never an idea in my mind.

  I enjoyed going to day camp, returning home at night, and going to Maine every summer with my parents and sister. Going to an overnight camp was fully out of my comfort zone, and I didn’t know what to expect.  

In my first year, I got homesick often, but the bonds I created with my new friends and counselors made me want to return for years and years. If I never stepped out of my comfort zone, I would have never found a place I could easily call home.  

I believe in living a fulfilled life, you must step out of your comfort zone.

Jenna Barr is a BBG from Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and she is on a competition dance team!

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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