Bound for a Place Where Laughter Replaces Traffic's Clatter

By John Kelly
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Another group of campers left for Moss Hollow on Monday morning. My assistant, Julia Feldmeier, watched them go.

There is an excited discussion among a group of girls about pillows -- whose is fluffier and which pillowcase is cooler: the one with the Little Mermaid on it or the flower-print one?

The flower-print pillow is tossed onto the grass for use as a seat cushion while campers wait to board the buses to Moss Hollow. The Little Mermaid's face is dragged across the sidewalk as her owner races to greet counselors.

A parent might worry, momentarily, about a child's poor treatment of bed linens, but this is part of the camp package: Send your kids for a week, and you can bet that they'll come back with good friends, great memories -- and sacks of dirty laundry.

This is why parents stand to the side, smiling at their children through the open bus windows, sad to see them go but happy knowing that it's an experience for them.

"It's hard, but you do what you have to do to help them grow," says Kourtney Warren, whose daughters Dariyan, 7, and KeJon, 10, are off to camp for the first time.

She's standing outside the bus with her cousin Yvette Turner, discussing traffic (the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge closure is a hot topic among parents here in Northeast Washington). Turner's here to see her 14-year old daughter, Alicia, off to camp for the second time this summer. It's different this time around. The first session, Alicia didn't want to go, didn't think she'd have fun, thought she'd be too old for camp.

"I had to drag her here," Turner recalls.

But Alicia loved it. So much, in fact, that she phoned her mom mid-week just to tell her that, yes, she was having a great time.

So "she packed her own bags this time and set her own alarm clock," Turner says. "She was ready."

Alicia pops out of the bus momentarily, hair newly done up in braids, and waves to her mom before climbing aboard to reunite with friends.

Through the window, a voice is heard: "What's up, girl?"

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