Two weeks ago, my nine-year old son Dawson and I spent the weekend with eight other dads and sons from our church. We experienced Camp McCall, a boys camp in South Carolina sponsored by the South Carolina Baptist Convention. This trip marked my fourteenth time at the camp. I attended seven times as a camper in the 1980’s and have returned seven times as a dad for their father-son camps.
By the seventh time, the experience feels routine. The schedule, the activities, the games, the songs, and yes, the long hikes uphill stay consistent from year to year. On every father-son camp I have attended, we always sing “Father Abraham” at the missions time. The post-canteen night schedule always consists of campfire one night and night games in the gym the other. I can finish most of the jokes that are retold every year.
Though predictable to me, the experience seems always fresh for my boys. Without exaggeration, I believe Dawson talked about going to camp every week of the past year since our last time at McCall. Weekly I hear, “Daddy, when we go to Camp McCall next year . . . .”
So ten men and boys left Laurens and drove to Sunset, South Carolina, on a June Saturday morning. We braved Lake Chiliwater, played dodge ball, hiked to the Little Waterfall, slept in an old cabin, showered in a dingy bathhouse, laughed around the campfire, sang songs in chapel, and quickly emptied our food dishes onto our plates so that we could send a camper to the front for seconds.
I suppose every father who goes to camp with his son hopes that memories are made that will far outlast the reminders of inconveniences like a sore back or lack of sleep.
Two days in a row, Dawson wanted to go to the Craft Hut. I preferred swimming at the lake, but agreed to walk to the hut and help my son make crafts. One day we purchased a glue-together wooden plane kit for $4.00. It took two free-time periods to sand, paint, and glue the toy together. Dawson worked steadily on the project with Dad offering assistance as needed.
On the third day, ten very tired boys and men left camp and returned home, tucking away another year of camp into our memory banks.
The next weekend was Father’s Day. Every year I request that my children make cards for me on Father’s Day. I tape them to the wall of my office and enjoy looking at them. Dawson’s card was creative. The children poke fun at the fact that when I am in charge of lunch or supper, we often have pizza. So the card granted me an award for the father who makes pizza for his children. Dawson created a prize envelope in the card.
“Daddy, take out the prize card!”
I did so, and it read, “Look in the grill.”
For birthday and Christmas gifts, we sometimes send our children on treasure hunts around the house and yard. The last clue will direct them to a spot where their gift is located. So, in like fashion, Dawson directed me.
We walked outside to the large grill. Dawson, grinning from ear to ear, exclaimed, “Open it, Daddy!”
Lifting the top revealed a present roughly wrapped in bright red paper, covered with scotch tape. Having no clue what was inside, I tore open the paper. Immediately recognizing the gift, I fought back tears as Dawson jumped up and down.
The Father’s Day gift was the painted purple and red plane that we assembled together at camp. Nothing bought from a store could have made me feel as good as I did that afternoon. We embraced for a priceless moment, and I sure was glad we went to camp together.