The movie “Love Actually” is one of my favorite movies because it illustrates a wonderful point: love actually is. Love exists despite anyone who tries to say otherwise.
There is, in fact, a corner of the earth where love is completely unscathed and is flourishing brighter than any other phenomenon. Love exists at summer camp in abundance, in every gesture, swimming in the lake and waterskiing tethered to the back of a jet boat. Love is in attendance at Saturday night campfires, resonating between the campers while they hold hands and grinning, scream the alma mater.
This brings me to another point. I am always startled by the Maine stars, and seeing them in the presence of so much love and brilliant a fire is breathtaking. The stars in Maine shine with more clarity than many campers have seen before and are thus the subject of much amazement, as they are unaffected by the light pollution that plagues many of the campers’ hometowns.
The movie “Love Actually” cites airport terminals as a place where love actually exists. But because of airport security these days, loved ones can no longer embrace their travelling friends and family members in the gate when they emerge from the plane. They to greet their loved ones at baggage claim. And everyone knows how stressful and congested baggage claim can be, and even though there are still delightful moments to witness, they typically only last between fifteen and thirty seconds.
Summer camp, however, well that’s two months, or about fifty days, bursting at the seams with moments that are drenched, literally soaking in love. The first day of camp at Mataponi is nothing short of magical. The giddy girls surge from their buses and drop their suitcases to fly into each other’s arms to begin the summer. Everyone is ecstatic to be back at camp and drenched in love once again, the whole day is absolutely euphoric. Even my first summer at camp, before I knew hardly anyone, I was aware that I had arrived somewhere special. I’d never seen anyone this excited about anything, not even on the first night of Hanukkah. The scene on the first day of camp at Mataponi is something to behold indeed and has brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion.
And of course these two months are much longer in the minds of children for whom the months are still incalculably long, and even longer because everyone knows that one day at camp is equivalent to five days in the real world. Love isn’t just at Mataponi on the first day of camp. It’s there every day, in every hour and gesture at camp. No one is strangers, everyone is family and hugs are as common as hello’s at Mataponi. Campers can be seen holding hands on the way to meals, skipping and laughing and basking in the beauty of positive social interaction that so enhances the experience of life.
I once asked my dad if he cried at the end of his overnight camp (he went to Pine Forest in the Poconos). I spent my entire camp experience at Mataponi, an all girls’ camp, so I was unsure how boys handled the end of camp and especially my dad, who I had only seen cry once at my Bat Mitzvah. He admitted that yes, he did cry at the end of camp. He said that he and his best friend, nicknamed Bubba, would sneak away to the shower house on the last day of camp and cry so that no one could see them. The fact that my dad, someone I thought of as always stoic, found camp’s ending sacred enough to cry over made sense to me. I loved camp more than anything else in the world.
So next time you’re looking to witness love in action, drive to your city’s airport. But don’t stop there. Take a plane to Maine, step outside and breathe in the air from the pine trees and watch. Soon enough, you’ll understand.