This week our house will be filled with girls, the uneven balance my daughter Katie and I experience everyday tipped solidly into the territory of all things feminine. Camp Starks is set to begin Wednesday night, described by Katie in the promotional brochure as a “three day all girls camp dedicated to making fun summer memories, especially for kids too young to attend other camps.”
The idea for Camp Starks was born last year in a conversation with a friend about providing care for her young daughters while she was away for the week. I commented that we could make their time at our house kind of like a summer camp experience, thinking that would be more appealing than “babysitting.” That was about as far as my creativity extended, however; Katie was the one who took the idea and ran with it.
Soon she was busy planning games, crafts, field trips, enlisting her best friend’s help, with the idea that Hadley’s younger sister could also attend our camp. She tapped her older brothers for their lifeguarding skills, enlisting them to teach swim lessons and guard during open swim times. My artist friend Kim (also Hadley’s mom) agreed to work in her studio with the girls, helping them to create handmade paper and clay figures. When the possibility of inviting boys came up, Katie held strong; her heart was to create a community for girls.
It was a full three days. We learned a lot. We learned that things rarely go as planned; flexibility is crucial. We learned that three is a hard number for girls (and women, too): the tendency to pair up often left one out. We learned that simple things bring great joy, like giggling in the tent at night while telling stories. We learned that the desire to be noticed by boys starts young, an innocent desire to be sure, but something about the difference they recognized created a whole new level of showing off and clamoring for attention from Lifeguard Tim and Lifeguard Matt. Most of all, we learned how important relationships are to girls.
Over the past year, I’ve had time to ponder women and relationships and community and loneliness and celebration and longings and loyalty and loss. I’ve wrestled with the awareness that I will always live with a level of emptiness and ache for more in the context of relationships, at least as long as I draw breath on this earth. Too often, a voice inside me whispers that the disappointment and complexity inevitable in my friendships with women aren’t worth it. Until I remember.
I remember my daughter’s face, lit up in delight as she plays with the little girls and laughs with Hadley. I remember Kim’s face, alive with curiosity and playfulness as she imparted her love for creating to the eager young girls wiggling on their chairs in her studio. And I remember my own heart; the fullness I hold after time spent laughing and crying with a dear friend over a cup of coffee or shopping for “girly” things with Katie, reveling in her beauty and simple confidence, but mostly our mutual enjoyment of time spent together.
So this week we come full circle, the multi-generational ritual of older girls (or women) teaching the younger and joining in a celebration of the creativity, relational capacity and beauty that is uniquely theirs as females continues. There will be moments of goodness and joy as well as disappointment and frustration; a picture of life I intend to embrace.
Janet Stark is a woman learning to embrace her depth and sensitivity. Inspired by Mary pondering things in her heart, Janet writes about her experiences here. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband of 25 years, as well as her 4 children and 2 grandchildren. She is a life-long lover of words and looks forward to reading and sharing at Red Tent Living.