Cornerstone Content,  Photography,  Writing

My 2022 Reunion Tour

Ah, nostalgia. It’s the unavoidable memory of something from your past that strikes you unexpectedly and makes you feel warm inside. Usually this applies to positive experiences — but sometimes it can be painful to remember old times in your past when things weren’t so great.

I was thinking about my childhood the other day and all the wonderful memories I have. I was born and raised in New York City, but grew up in a small town where everyone knew each other. I remember spending lazy summers days down by the river with my friends, fishing and swimming. We would get lost in the woods, explore abandoned houses, and ride our bikes everywhere. We were always outside, getting dirty and coming home with scraped knees. Those were the best days of my life.

There’s something about going home that just feels right. Maybe it’s the comfort of being surrounded by familiar faces and places. Or maybe it’s the sense of belonging that comes from being in a place where you’re known and loved. Whatever the reason, sometimes you just need to go home. It’s the place I grew up in and the place I always come back to. It’s a constant in my life, even when everything else is changing. And that’s why I love it so much.

Home isn’t just a physical place; it can also be a state of mind. Home is wherever I feel safe and loved, where I can be myself without judgement or fear. Home is where someone will always love me and have my back no matter what. For me, home is peace; it’s safety; it’s happiness; it’s family; it’s community.

Thomas Slatin, Grade 5

My parents purchased a house in Stamford, New York in 1986, and in 1987, we moved. I lived in Stamford from age 8 until age 22, and most of my memories from that time in my life center around our house on Main Street.

I lost my virginity in my bedroom at age 20. It was with my close friend and it happened after we had been spending a lot of time together. It was just one time, and we both pretty much knew that it wasn’t going to be anything serious. I had a summer job and she was heading off to join the military. She was going on an adventure while I was stuck working all day so we wanted to do something special before we both left. We decided on one last hoorah and that night when my parents were out of town, she came over to watch a movie in my parents living room and next thing you know, clothes were coming off and there we were. We have been close friends ever since, and although we both married other people, we have kept in touch.

The only thing I truly miss from the 1990’s is my time at Camp Chateaugay. It was at camp that I not only made most of my lifelong friends, but where I also learned how to ride a horse, paddle a canoe, shoot an arrow and fell in love for the first time at age 16. It was at camp that I first heard music by R.E.M., Blues Traveler, Counting Crows, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I remember being a teenager and feeling so overwhelmed by everything. I was constantly anxious and felt like I was never good enough. But then I went to summer camp and everything changed. For the first time, I felt like I belonged somewhere. I made friends that accepted me for who I was and I had so much fun. It was such a life-changing experience that I still look back on fondly today. Every now and again, I go back to the same cabin in upstate New York where it all began.

I was 16 when I fell in love for the first time. For the very first time in my life, I met a girl who I felt comfortable spilling all my secrets to. She listened to me with an open mind and open eyes, and I loved the feeling of finally being understood. I loved that someone saw me for who I truly was and loved me anyway. I loved that I could be myself around her and didn’t have to put on a show. But most of all, I loved the way it made me feel alive. She eventually left as a foreign exchange student, and we kept in touch for a few years. We talked sporadically over Facebook Messenger for a while before slowly going our separate ways.

My memories there are full of laughter and tears but all are happy tears because they remind me how far I’ve come on this journey called life. The best thing my parents did was to teach me that anything possible if you work hard enough for your dreams, and that those dreams will not come to be without hard work, dedication, and persistence.

July 19, 2022
I met up with two friends; Renee, and Elliot. I had spent the previous night at my mom’s house on Main Street, though because I missed Amelia so much, I got very little sleep.

My mom sent me home with gifts, which included some decorations for my house, some stationary and writing accessories, and a file of medical and school-related documents my father had secretly kept hidden my entire life.

I finally brought my childhood writing desk back to my forever home in Vermont.

July 23, 2022
I visited Camp Chateaugay, where I had spent my summers from 1991 to 2000. Whenever I think about camp, I remember the last night of being a camper, as if it were yesterday, and I was asked to speak in front of the camp about my experiences. In the summer of 1994, I spoke of not fitting in, of being bullied, mistreated, and abused, though it was at Camp Chateaugay that I was truly loved for who I was as a person. My camp counselors sent a letter home to my parents, summarizing my summer camp experience.

Thomas Slatin, Camp Chateaugay Wilderness 1994

August 19, 1994

Dr. Mr. and Mrs. Slatin

The twilight of another summer at Chateaugay is upon us and with remorse only for the friends we will miss, the Wilderness group of 1994 is looking back at what proved to be an exciting and challenging summer. In the seven weeks that each of the 28 campers spent here they learned that every one of them had their own strength as individuals and by cooperating they could be strong as a group. They pooled their resources to cook their own meals, plan and prepare three five-day trips, and work on projects such as a new bike rack, a new camp sign, and a flag pole for the unit. More importantly, they assisted in revitalizing traditional camp songs by teaching them to the younger kids in camp. In addition, the Wilderness unit of 1994 was extremely successful in planning and running various entire-camp activities. All of these activities brought the group together and taught them more about themselves than they ever could have imagined.

Thomas is a difficult person to write about. Is is difficult because words don’t do justice to the kindness in her heart and a kind of perseverance which she embodies. Because of the personal barriers she has faced, Thomas has the ability to feel compassion for others, and she proved it all summer by looking out for the others in the group much like a big sister would. On the bike trip she was always there and willing to get off her bike and walk a while with someone if they were having a hard time. In camp she was best noted for her ability to make people laugh, and we literally heard the other campers say that they loved her for that. At the final candle passing Tom expressed that camp was the one place where her peers would accept her for who she was. Her words echo true in all of us, and we are confident that her presence will enrich Chateaugay in the future.

The most rewarding part of the journey has been that what started out as 28 campers and four counselors is now a group of 32 friends, and we all consider each other as family. Each day over the course of the summer one camper or another has remarked that for them, Chateaugay is another home. It is a home and a family that we will cherish forever.

Sincerely,
David Korn, Sarah Welsh, Darcy Angelo, John McIntyre

Going back to camp left me with a feeling of unprecedented love, and some new friendships. I have never felt so loved, appreciated, admired, or beautiful.

Colophon
This piece was inspired by real events, which I referred to as my 2022 reunion tour. In my life, I have needed to occasionally visit or call upon the lifelong friends who know me for who I really am, and who love and respect me for it.

Asides
Camp Chateaugay, In Pictures (1991-2000) | The Slatin Family: The Stamford, New York Years | Chasing Cars

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