Day 1, Session 2
It all started as I wheeled myself off of the bus (there were no ramp problems this year, yay!!!)
I felt cleansed as the fresh mountain air worked its way into my polluted lungs from the city’s undying smoke and dust particles. It was awesome.
This year, I was supposed to be in Hemlock, and I was really excited to know that this year I was going to be with people my own age (13). Though my hopes (before PAC-Windsong) were shut down as I rolled my wheelchair to the front of the cabin, which had a HUGE step in front of it!! I then noticed that ALL of these cabins had a step, which meant that I couldn’t get in, which also meant, no Hemlock for Aaron. This kind of thing happens to me a lot, though.
The staff members that came with me to the Hemlock cabins gave me two options of where to go for my time at camp- back to Wawayanda (where I was last year with the little kids) or Pac/Windsong, the oldest kids in camp.
My first instincts lead me to say, “Pac/Windsong.”
I picked them originally because they were closer to my age group (SORT OF).
Great job, me! This (slowly) lead to one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I remember walking up the trail that lead to Quirk Lodge, the place I would be staying at for my time at camp (which was ironically RIGHT NEXT to Hyde/Watson, the lodge I stayed in last year!) I was freaking out as I rolled up the path. My wheelchair was running out of battery power, and I was worrying about living with teenagers, worrying about fitting in, and worrying if I was going to have a good time or not.
To be honest, most of the teenagers that I know outside of Frost Valley are anti-social, mean and they just ignore everyone and everything. Bitter. Very, very bitter (except for teenagers on tumblr, though. They’re hilarious.)
Therefore, I was expecting more of the same.
As soon as I walked into the lodge, the first thing I thought of was, “THEY’RE SO TALL!”
I mean, they were playing sports, and there was SO MUCH NOISE! It was quite a sight to see. Someone walked up to me and said, “Hey! My name is ______. If you ever need anything, feel free to let me know.”
Still 13, (used to be) terrified of teenagers and in a wheelchair, though.
I realized something.
Making friends is actually a really physical activity. Think about it! Handshakes, hugs, high fives, fist-bumps, you name it! PHYSICAL ACTIVITY.
And, guess what?
I struggle to even stretch my arms out!
Oh, boy. :/
The village chief gathered everyone into the main room so we could introduce ourselves. By the time everyone was done introducing themselves, it was time for dinner.
At dinner, I only got half a slice of pizza because it was at the middle of the table with an estimated 18 campers reaching for it. Then, when I finally got my hands on the pizza, it had no cheese on it, just sauce, and it was half of a slice. HALF!
(That very same night, I had a very vivid dream about a floating pizza box with warm, hot pizza in it, and when I tried to reach for it, all of the pizza INCLUDING THE BOX disintegrated.)
About an hour later, it was opening campfire. A huge storm front had moved into our region. I had to say, this was probably THE BIGGEST THUNDERSTORM I’VE EVER HEARD, SEEN AND EXPERIENCED. It was almost as if something heavy was dancing in the skies.
All in all, I wasn’t having that good of a first day. Bad pizza, struggling to adjust to living with teenagers, oh gosh.
And it got worse.
It got worse because my wheelchair ran out of battery power. I remember being confined to the wall of the dining hall as my wheelchair was powering up near a power outlet, and trying to figure out what to do. All I could do was just watch all the other campers have fun.
So, the first day ended pretty badly.
But, I knew something good would be coming soon.
It’s Frost Valley, for goodness’ sake!
Days 2 and 4 ( 4 actually could be 6 or 7 because of PAC/Windsong’s hike), Session 2, PAC/Windsong
This counted as the official first day of camp.
Day 1 counted as sort of a welcoming for everyone.
My wheelchair had full battery that day!
Every once in a while, I would go up to people and say “Hi!”, but that’s all I really did. I was new to this atmosphere, there was no one I knew from last year, so it was really hard to make friends and start conversations.
The entire day went on like this.
Though, I had something to look forward too. Devotion, or “Devo”.
It’s where your village/cabin comes together and either there’s a question that’s asked or an activity or a discussion that takes place and you answer it. Devotion can get personal (most of the time it does), and through that activity, you get to bond with the people around you and start friendships. Not just friendships. Best friendships.
I knew that Devotion would be coming soon. Therefore, all I had to do was wait a little bit longer.
I remember asking one of my counselors if we were going to have Devotion, or not.
1. He said yes!
2. It was going to be with Windsong, too!
(Windsong is PAC’s FANTASTIC, BEAUTIFUL, HANDS DOWN GREAT sister village.)
3. It was “Cross The Line” Devotion (it was an activity in which you cross a line in the middle of a room if one of the counselors says an event or a trait that applies/applied to you.)
I felt this load come off of my mind and heart, It was great! FINALLY, DEVOTION!!! I had something to give me hope and to look forward to.
Over time, lunch and dinner passed (I got good food!!! 😊) It was then evening activity, and then, devotion.
For a moment, I had butterflies in my stomach. I actually still thought I wouldn’t make friends, and when I did, it would be just a fleeting moment.
I was thinking, "Maybe, I’m wrong. Maybe, I’ll just be alone, you know. I’m scared."
I was so wrong.
After Devotion, literally everyone in the room was crying and hugging each other because we realized that none of us are alone, and that all of us have our life’s challenges. It’s so beautiful to know that someone can relate to your struggle and that you have a shoulder to cry on.
That night, I learned something.
Life is strange and most of the time, you bond with people much more through pain than happiness. And through that pain, happiness comes.
Everything Up Until Vespers, Session 2
The day after CTL Devotion, people started talking to me!
Friendships bloomed between me and other people like sunflowers in the summer.
During this time, I learned and did SO much.
I actually took a gardening specialty (they said that you could eat some of the stuff in the garden. I immediately took that chance. 👍) and planted a heap of stuff. This class made me really happy because my wheelchair didn’t get in the way of what I was doing.
I took a flower crown making class, I took art class, I did a lot of stuff.
Though, there were times where I would just sit in the shade and relax because I couldn’t play the games that the other kids were playing because of my limited ability to physically move. Or it got too hot, and I needed to be in the shade. I normally just hung out with my counselors.
I just did whatever I could. However (this happened during both sessions), some of the kids from PAC were kind enough to hang out with me during those times, unlike school, where I often find myself seated in a corner all by myself.
The people whom sat down with me while I couldn’t play these games I now consider to be my best friends/closest friends at camp because they wanted to be with me. Which, I truly admire and treasure because that doesn’t happen to me very often. :)
Actually, a lot of people in camp this year did that, to be honest. :)
Therefore, during this time period, I was just really happy and psyched to have made friends.
Vespers, Session 2
When you’re in PAC/Windsong, you have a formal dinner (you dress up and eat), and after that, you have a special devotion called Vespers as a brother-sister village.
Vespers is where you stand in front of everyone, and you talk about how Frost Valley has affected you in your life.
I remember people saying, “Are you ready to cry at Vespers?”, and I would ask why. I found out for myself.
Vespers really made me adore PAC/Windsong, and their strength.
I wasn’t proud of what I said, because it was so vague and not well thought out at all.
All of the other kids went incredibly deep into how Frost Valley changed their lives. I can’t share with you guys what people said there, because what’s said in devotion STAYS in devotion. I can only tell you what I said. Nothing but that. All I said was this-
"Hi everyone! This is my second year of Frost Valley, and this place makes me really happy. Thank you for making this a great year. I love all of you so much."
I felt so bad for not saying what I’ve been through. So, so bad.
I felt bad for not saying stuff about my disability, and how much pain it’s put me through for these 13 years.
I immediately knew what I wanted to talk about, and planned what I would say during Vespers, Session 3.
The Day Before The Last Day, Session 2
My main objective was to hang out with all of the people I could before the session ended.
Throughout Session 2, I made a ton of friends, despite the rocky start.
Now, I just needed to hang out with them before they left.
To achieve my goal, I spent a little bit of time with everyone. It was kind of like my wheelchair was transformed into a race car, racing from one person to another, yet still spending time with them.
The Last Day, Session 2
My face throughout the whole day: 😭😭😭
I wasn’t the only person with that face, though. Just about everyone was crying.
But at the same time, I was really satisfied.
I made friends!!! I did it.
I made friends with most of these people.
I talked to these people, cried on their shoulders when I was really upset, shared so many laughs with them over the weirdest stuff (WEIRD STUFF), I did it.
Holdover is the period between 2 sessions. It lasts for 2 days, and it’s SO MUCH FUN!
All you do is just chill, hang out with your friends and go back to your cabin.
It was really fun. We even had a movie night!
Though, there was something that happened.
The remainder of PAC/Windsong and I wanted to hang out on the porch one night.
However, my battery ran out, and I couldn’t go outside!! I had to stay plugged into the wall of my cabin. :(
One of the Holdover VC’S came into the cabin and told me that since I wasn’t there, she could’ve gone and told them to hold the event the next day.
I said that it would be cruel of me to ruin their fun just because I wasn’t there, and they should chill.
This happens to me quite often, anyways.
Therefore, I allowed them to continue talking to each other.
I just sat there and talked to my cabin counselor, though I just really wished I could’ve been outside with them.
Day 1, Session 3
The remainder of Session 2 and I waited in the common room of the lodge for approximately an hour, waiting for the kids to start coming.
I remember parking myself in front of the music speaker, listening to My Chemical Romance and Lorde.
I was so excited about meeting these other PAC members, because I heard such great things about them, such as how funny and nice they were. I was so psyched!
About 30 minutes later, the kids started coming.
I greeted all of them as they came in, one by one.
20 minutes later, the counselors got all of the kids in the common room.
We all introduced ourselves, and by the time that was over, it was time for dinner.
And after dinner, it was opening campfire.
After OC, we went back to the cabin (these kids are my best friends, but they became my friends later on. I’ll explain all of that soon.)
I realized something as I was in my bed- I didn’t make many new friends that day.
All there was between PAC and me was, “Hello, nice to meet you.”
Just like Session 2.
I just kind of brushed it off as, “It’s the first day, whatever.”
Day 2, Session 3
As the day passed by, it was the same result. “Hi.”
There was no real conversation besides the other kids from Session 2.
In fact, some of the kids didn’t even talk to me when I was saying “Hi!” to them.
That was when I knew something was going on.
Was I too young for them? Too happy? Too nice? I didn’t get it.
Could it have possibly been me being the only kid in a wheelchair?
The possibilities were endless.
Something just wasn’t clicking together. I didn’t know what to do. I needed to find a way to associate with these campers.
Also, they were going for their hike up The Catskills at lunch! Therefore, I had to wait 2 more days to make friends.
Though, CTL Devotion was going to happen soon! Like I did in Session 2, all I had to do is wait.
Day 5, Session 3
My brother and I were visited by my dad and Dr. Laurie, a professor from Mercy College. Yay!
They hung out with us for 3 hours, and we were discussing camp and life outside of camp, such as my dad’s health (you know, because of my dad’s heart attack), etc.
My dad made SO much progress while my brother and I were away at camp. He can cook again, he can clean, and he has his energy back!
It was so great and satisfying to see my dad up and running again.
After my dad left, PAC returned from their hike.
However, Iife was still the same. NO ONE WAS TALKING TO ME NO MATTER HOW SOCIAL I WAS TRYING TO BE.
Soon after that, I learned that we were going to have a poetry slam. After you were done writing, you would read your poem to everyone.
My poem was more of an execution of my feelings.
I felt the need to let PAC know how I’d been feeling. It had been 5 days into Session 3 and all people have said to me was “Hi.” That’s not okay!
I actually felt really nervous presenting this to everyone. I mean, I wanted to show them how I felt but at the same time though, I didn’t know how they would react. Would they be shocked? Mad? Would all of them stop talking to me all at once!?
I read my poem/rant.
After I was done, the counselors came up to me and basically said that if I need help with this stuff or if I need someone to talk to, I could come to them.
I remember going to the fruit stand in the dining hall, and I got myself an apple. Yep, I got myself an apple! 😊
Then, people (campers) started coming up to me and just started having conversations with me. Some of them even apologized for not really talking to me, and some of the people that actually did talk to me said that they hoped that they didn’t hurt my feelings.
I realized how sweet PAC really is through that, and something else.
My actual favorite thing in the whole world- devotion!!!
After dinner, before CTL, we had a party to celebrate PAC/Windsong’s successful hike up the Catskills.
THERE. WAS. ICE. CREAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I could actually swear that I almost ate the styrofoam container!
Because of my sugar rush (yes, I still do have those), I joined everyone and everything I could find. Conversations, listening to rap battles, it was so much fun.
Then, it was finally time for CTL Devotion!!!!
Of course, I left a pool of tears on my tray. It was really, really nice, even though I continued crying.
And then, a bunch of people came to give me hugs. And, they were crying, too!
Devotion is a sad, but lovely thing, OK?
Like how The Fault In Our Stars could be your favorite thing, devotion is mine.
Everything Up Until Vespers
Hugs became a regular thing between my friends and me. Personally, I like hugs. I feel like high-fives and fist bumps are saying, “Eww… don’t get your germs on me.” HUGS DO NOT SPREAD GERMS, OKAY?
We also had actual conversations, such as talking about 5 Seconds Of Summer (they’re a band that I adore), anime and we even talked about tumblr! :)
I connected with PAC/Windsong so much since the poetry slam and CTL devotion.
For example, if I was sitting by myself because it was too hot or I couldn’t play the game that they were playing, one of my friends would just come up to me and we would chill.
Every now and then, my wheelchair would get in the way of my social life, but that didn’t change anything. I still had friends to be with.
If my wheelchair was charging somewhere, or if I was sitting by myself because of it, or even if I was sad about my disability because I couldn’t do the stuff that other people can, either a counselor or a PAC camper would come to me and we would just talk it out.
In other words, PAC/Windsong are angels.
Vespers, Session 3
Remember how I said I would plan my speech for this Vespers during the Session 2 section of this post?
I followed my heart, and said what I really wanted to say.
To be honest, I don’t feel comfortable telling you guys what I said but here’s something: it was about my disability.
I got so much love for doing that. I mean, it was so beautiful to know that these people who aren’t even in wheelchairs can relate to this and make me feel better.
I then realized what Vespers is all about: realizing the connections and bonds and trust Frost Valley has made between us all.
The Day Before The Last Day, Session 3
I spent the entire day crying and hugging people.
I was crying when I overheard the song that the counselors were going to play at closing campfire (even though it was from a TV show from Playhouse Disney), and I cried AT closing campfire, where PAC had to sing “Let Her Go” by Passenger.
I literally said that I’m not excepting high-fives or fist bumps because it was the day before camp ends, and that I only take hugs.
I remember having this period of self-reflection as I was in the common room (a lot of stuff happened there, ok!?)
While I was sitting by myself, I realized that these are the kindest, bravest, most accepting teenagers I’ve met so far in my life.
I realized that maybe I was the one that didn’t open up because of the shock that all of my friends from the previous session left.
Then, it hit me that I did open up.
I did by reading that rant at the poetry slam.
Because, I made friends!!!
It was then, at that exact moment, not even at that moment, but at Devotion, at Vespers, on Nintendo Day (it was a day where you dress up as a Nintendo character), when my wheelchair was charging, when PAC put up with my horrible singing as we would go to Hangout, that I knew that this group of people will always be my friends.
The Last Day of Camp
I couldn’t finish my breakfast- I was too sad. Seriously, though. Do you know when you can feel sadness in the pit of your stomach? That’s what happened to me.
I remember walking down the dining hall, and seeing one of my best friends from Hemlock (the kids in my age group). I immediately started crying, and he bear-hugged me.
He was crying, too.
After that happened, I got my flower pot from pottery, which broke immediately after I got it.
I then gave the shards to my friends as I saw them. So they can remember me. Then, I started crying even more.
After all of that, it was time for PAC/Windsong’s official goodbye.
I cried so hard, all of my friends were crying, I received a gazillion (5+ minute) hugs, and I started hyperventilating as I had to say goodbye to one of my friends.
I hugged all of the staff members, and then it was time to wait for the Manhattan bus to come.
And that was my time at Frost Valley this year.
PAC/Windsong 2014, thank you so much.
Thank you for the flower crown making classes, the fun I had at the Olympix, the delicious ice cream before CTL devotion, hooplah, the hugs, the love, EVERYTHING.
Even though I’m only 13 and I have 2 more years at camp, it killed me to have to say goodbye to you guys.
Each and everyone of you are such fantastic, caring, lovely, beautiful people and coming to you guys was one of THE best chances I’ve ever taken.
Even though I’m in a wheelchair, you guys made it possible to block out that everyday isolation I normally feel outside of Frost Valley, and made me feel so happy.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!!!
“And remember, there’s only 1 Windsong and Pac!”