I just returned from Brigadoon. Remember the play? It’s about a magical village that appears for one day every year and has remained unchanged for two centuries.
Deer Valley YMCA Family Camp is my family’s Brigadoon. For a week every year, we travel back to this gorgeous camp about an hour and a half southeast of Pittsburgh.
Cell phone service isn’t available. To make a call, campers have to leave the camp, drive back up the mountain, park in a gravel parking lot, and hope to get a signal.
Internet service has been added in the last couple of years, but it’s available only at the office and the password is a secret. The camp director shares it with adults if they promise just a few minutes of checking email.
We really don’t have time for computers, however, because we’re too busy. The camp is set on a 125-acre lake, so campers can sail big J-Ys, or small Aqua-fins. We can paddle canoes, Kayaks, or paddle boards. Athletic, ambitious people may swim across the lake. The ones who complete the goal stand on their chairs at lunch relishing the enthusiastic congratulations from the other campers.
Competitive people sign up to play in tournaments: softball, volley ball, bocce, ping pong, euchre, Trivial Pursuit, or chess. Others may want to fly through the trees on the zip line or hike up to DV Rocks or Mt. Davis. Walking, biking, and running around the lake are popular activities, too. Group horse rides and themed hay rides are offered throughout the week.
Creative people stay busy in the craft shop painting green ware, throwing pots on the pottery wheels, making leather items, knitting or crocheting.
Tired people sit under a tree pretending to read a book.
We eat family style at round tables after singing the Johnny Appleseed or Superman or Adams Family grace. We shout dares from table to table during meals, so someone might have to eat a hated vegetable or sing I’m a Little Teapot or skip around the room followed by cheers of the fellow campers. Then an hour and a half later, we wait in line for a mint chocolate chip milkshake or a root beer float in the snack bar. We have to keep up our stamina for the afternoon’s activities.
We enjoy a lot of freedoms at Deer Valley. As soon as the wrist band encircles their arms, children zoom away from their parents to play with friends they haven’t seen in a year. They’ll check in with parents at meals and bedtime. Teenagers feel free to play with first or second graders. Twenty-somethings chat with retirees who aren’t their grandparents.
The Deer Valley spirit is about encouraging and having fun, so we cheer for a novice plucking his way through a Beatles’ song on a guitar almost as big as he is. We laugh at ancient knock knock jokes. We sing old songs like King of the Road and children’s songs like There was a Moose and Going to Kentucky.
Fortunately for us, Deer Valley appears for seven days instead of only one. For seven days, we catch up with news from the previous year and discuss plans for the next. Then the hugs and tears start during the last breakfast. Reality is waiting a mile or so up the mountain.
Forty-nine weeks until we can do it all again.