A place you can’t just leave…

Friendships made at Camp are unlike any other

When Josh Ganz reluctantly decided it was time to end his illustrious camp career and enter the “real world,” our relationship was, for lack of a better word, undeveloped. He was 16 and getting ready to start junior year of high school, whereas I was 11 and getting ready to shower more than once a week. While I knew and admired him as a fun older athlete and he knew and (hopefully) admired me as a really cute kid, I can’t claim that we were close. So when Josh left camp in 1997, it would have been hard to predict that twelve years later he would get off a plane in Barcelona, on his way to visit me for a week.

That’s where the beauty of camp comes in. Camp Monroe is a place that you can’t just leave. Monroers are people that you can’t just forget. Though it’s impossible to stay in touch with everybody, camp provides an arena in which the strongest bonds are forged, the most indelible memories are created, and the truest sense of love and camaraderie is fostered. That’s why people come back year after year: whether for entire summers, for visiting days and Stanley Cups, or just for a few moments of mental escape. Camp forever remains a vibrant part of each of our lives. And that’s why Josh Ganz eventually gave himself the opportunity to become one of my best friends.

Josh took a break from Monroe, a long break. In fact, he was gone for 8 years and doing big things with his life. But it just wasn’t enough. He still yearned for that indescribable feeling you get when you turn onto Camp Monroe Road, when you drink that bug juice, when you sing Alma Maters; the feeling that this is where you’re supposed to be.

Like a good parent, camp was waiting to welcome Ganz back home with open arms. Of course it was different. His old running mates were for the most part gone, there were plenty of programming changes, the swings next to the main basketball court had been replaced by benches, and the ski doodle was ready to retire. But the spirit was still there, and Camp Monroe was Camp Monroe.

I don’t exactly remember the details of Josh and my new first encounter, but I’m pretty sure he asked what happened to the mullet that I rocked in the mid-90s. All I know is that it didn’t take long for us to become good friends, and the age difference that had seemed so pronounced in 1997 was inconsequential. The rest is history. But living, breathing history, because we are both still going to camp and writing new stories.

When Josh visited me, it was his first time in Spain, his first time in one of the biggest, most amazing cities in the world. There was so much to see, so much to discuss, so much to ponder. Yet through it all, every conversation we had at some point turned back towards camp. If you’ve been to Monroe, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We see the world through a different reference frame from most people. Smells, sights, sounds… Our senses will be forever formed by Camp Monroe, for it is the essential part of who we are.