My first summer at Camp Mataponi, I showed up quaking in my Sketchers, clutching my stuffed moose, and completely unprepared for what was soon to come. I watched my cousin race up to her friends from last summer before I flew down the steep Junior Hill and into Bunk 4, where I promptly disappeared into my book until dinnertime. Thus, the beginning of my ten summers at Camp Mataponi anti-climactically began.
At age 9, I had already deeply immersed myself in the world of Harry Potter. As soon as I noticed the brooms in my bunk, I eagerly grabbed one and raced outside to mime a game of Quidditch. While my bunkmates were trading stationary and playing cards, I ran outside with my broom every day at rest hour, alone. But one day, as I pretended I was catching the Golden Snitch, I noticed that I was not alone. Kim, one of my bunkmates, had followed me outside. She mounted her own broom, locked eyes with me, and began to follow my pantomime. Silently, we continued our ride.
At Camp Mataponi, I learned many things, but the most important was the lesson that Kim taught me during my first summer. There is no shame in being whoever you truly are, and there are people that will embrace you for just that. Honestly, ten years later, I haven’t changed too much from that girl who was convinced the brooms in her bunk flew. But I found friends that accepted me for my quirks, and loved me anyway. I have seen girls with completely different interests, tastes in clothes, and personalities, grow up together and stay best friends through their camp experience and further. I have seen quiet girls morph into extroverts, and loud, outspoken girls fall instantly silent when enraptured in a friend’s story. For campers and counselors alike, Mataponi has become a haven to foster friendships and build inner confidence. And although I never did get to go to Hogwarts, I soon realized I was a part of a place much more magical. Mataponi brings out the best in each individual, and becomes a place that each camper and counselor invariably will call home.
By Ilana “Weenies” Wolpert