Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

Stanford Sierra Camp

We all have those places, people, objects, whatever. We have these mental pictures of them, and as time goes by, our memories change. Places get fancier, objects get more valuable, and people get prettier. Or the opposite. Psychology and neurology tells us this is inevitable – our memories consist merely of neural pathways, and those change over time.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t matter how much our memories change, because they will never live up to reality. This statement has always and will always be true for me when it comes to Stanford Sierra Camp. There’s something about SSC for me that is perfect. The lake isn’t perfect – its actually effing freezing most years. The people aren’t always perfect – I’ve gotten into my fair share of spats with my annual best-friend-for-the-week. But camp itself is perfect in every single way.

For starters, it looks like this:

SSC from Baby Beach to the Boat Dock

SSC at 7am from Baby Beach to the Boat Dock

More than the sheer beauty of camp is the fact that it is steeped in tradition. Literally. Everyday, every activity, every everything has a tradition. Every kids group has a song, and they haven’t changed since I was a kid. Even as teenagers/twenty-year-olds, we still know them all by heart. Just ask me someday, and remind me that the Menehune cheer starts with “A yell!”

The best kids group tradition has to be Yahoo-Midoree Capture the Flag. Nothing beats a bit of good, old-fashioned competition. And when said competition includes all of camp, it gets a lot better. And then there’s this, which really and truly cannot be adequately explained.

But there are other, equally awesome traditions, like the Plunge, where 222 people (this year’s total and a new record) get up at 7:30 on Friday morning to jump in the lake and yell “Ooh! That’s cold!” Or the Munchkin Patch Social, which is basically happy hour in the playground, so the parents of 2-4 year olds don’t actually have to watch them. And I can’t forget camp’s strage obsession with eggs. That’s a thing.

Stanford Sierra Camp is a family camp, which I have realized many people don’t actually understand. It is EXACTLY what it sounds like. Family. Camp. You and your family head to camp. We sleep in cabins. We eat in the dining hall. 75 other families join in the fun, which means you spend a week with about 150 siblings and 150 parents. Give or take, of course. Its actually the best thing in the world though, because you make life-long friends, even though you only see them once a year. With various members of this family (be they biological or not), you go hiking, swimming, sailing, kayaking, water skiing, rock climbing, skinny dipping. Plus, you chill on the docks reading books, cuddle up to stare at the stars, share songbooks at the campfire. The list of timeless experiences is pretty much indefinite.

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