There aren’t many places I can think of that have a deep significance to me. The first destinations that come to mind usually consist of one of the extravagant, faraway places that I’ve visited with my mother on vacation. Then again, fantastic food, beautiful weather and exciting activities will linger in anyone’s mind. Despite the excitement that those vacations have brought me, none of them really matter to me as much as Camp Echo Lake and the river.
I’ve gone to Echo Lake for the past eight years and always looked forward to Visitng Day because of the annual bonding moment that I share with my mother.
Visiting Day seems to occur just at the point in the summer when the campers’ longing for home begins to reach their respective tipping points. The kids all drag their parents and siblings to the pool, lake, tennis courts or soccer fields, but I don’t.
I vividly remember tapping the aging wood of my bunk’s porch as I scanned the parking lot in search of my mother on one particular Visiting Day. As each car crackled over the gravel road, I eagerly watched in search of her ocean blue Prius. When she finally arrived, she attempted to wave while bags of chocolate chip cookies, clothing that I forgot at home and frivolous toys swung from her arms.
There was no discussion of plans for the day or new things to see because we have a long-established tradition.
We set off past Trek, down the narrow path, through the trees, down the hill that leads to an opening of tall grass and ferns. Light began to pour in around us as we enjoyed the calm trickling of the river skipping over the rocks in its path.
The river’s edge splashed against the beach rocks, sizzling from the sun beating down on them. We took off our shoes and quickly rested our feet in the water to alleviate our burning soles. As my mother searched the beach for a rock suitable to sit on, I treaded through the water meticulously in search of crustaceans. Time remained still, except for the constant flow of the river churning downstream. Eventually I found a crawfish, and as a result of my many years of experience, I captured the beast in my bare hands. With a sense of pride, I made my way back to shore to show off my prize to my mother who was watching in admiration.
After briefly admiring my catch, I released it and returned to the shore to sit on the rocks with my mother. As usual, there wasn’t much conversation, but not because we had nothing to discuss. We just both enjoy getting lost in the beauty and simplicity of the river. The silence always leads me to think about the only things surrounding me, my mother and the river. I looked over at my mother basking in the glow of the sun, listening to the sounds of the forest, just as she does every summer. I looked back at the river continuing on its path, reliable as always.
Whenever I think of going to the river with my mother on Visiting Day, I remember Amy’s mantra at Friday night services…“Remember to thank your parents!” Visiting Day gives us all a lesson in gratitude. It reminds us to be thankful and appreciative of the friends, family and places that we hold dear.
When thinking of memorable places, it can be quite easy to skip over the river in favor of more extravagant destinations, but unlike the fading memories of past vacations, Camp Echo Lake and the river will vividly exist forever in my heart and mind. The river will always be special to me; it serves as a reminder of my mother’s annual visits. Each time my mother and the river meet, I’m reminded of their reliability. I’m grateful and comforted by the fact that the river is still there every year, and so is she.