The Incredible Power of Nostalgia
Posted November 18th, 2015
By Cara Jacobstein Zimmerman
Brown Ledge was an integral part of my childhood. Like many alumnae, camp played a huge role in my social, emotional and physical development. At camp I learned how to do so many different things. From waterskiing to building sets for a play to hitting a topspin serve, there was always a new skill to learn and a new goal to set. I took responsible risks, forged life long friendships, developed critical life skills that helped me transition to adulthood, and best of all I had fun.
As in the song, The Circle Game, years spun by and I graduated from college, got my first real job, went to graduate school, met my husband, got married and then got pregnant. I was convinced that I was having a boy. So, when the delivery doctor announced, “it’s a girl!”, I blurted out “I have a future Brown Ledger” without even thinking. Now many people, probably my husband included, found this ridiculous. After all, I had just delivered our first child and within seconds of her taking her first breath I was already thinking about Brown Ledge.
In the days, weeks, months and years that followed, camp continued to play a central role in my life and thus in our family life. I joined the Board of Directors and became invested in perpetuating camp for the benefit of future Brown Ledgers, including my daughter. I taught my children (I went on to have two wonderful boys) my favorite camp songs, told them silly camp stories and read them letters that I had written to my parents when I was a camper. They especially enjoyed the letters because it gave them a snapshot of what I was like as a kid. I loved sharing these special memories with my children because it gave me license to walk down memory lane. I also secretly hoped that in sharing them, I would convince my daughter that she too would love Brown Ledge.
This past summer it was finally time for Ellie to go to Brown Ledge. The icing on the cake was that one of my dearest camp friends, Jamie, was also sending her 10 year old daughter to camp and the girls were going to be bunkies. Ellie and I could not contain our excitement. On our way to camp, we belted out camp songs in the car, talked about fun camp traditions, tried to guess her cabin, and talked about the activities she would try. We pulled into camp and as we stepped out of the car I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. Camp smelled the same, looked the same and I saw so many familiar faces that I felt transported back to my days at Brown Ledge. For a moment I am not sure I could distinguish between my memories that I was vividly reliving and my reality. It all felt bittersweet — mostly happy and comforting, after all I couldn’t imagine a better place to leave my daughter for a month, but with a tinge of sadness that my days as a camper were long past. I hadn’t expected these strong feelings and felt a little guilty that I felt anything but pure joy for Ellie as she started camp. Thankfully, I managed to pull myself together so that we could get Ellie checked in and set up. Truth be told, she made her own bed and unpacked all of her things while I talked to old friends, and then she kicked me out! I wanted to linger but she was ready to make camp her special place. As I drove home I realized that my nostalgia for camp was not a selfish emotion but rather kept me connected to camp all these years and it is what made me so certain that Brown Ledge would be a special place for my daughter.
I am so lucky – I have this wonderful place in my life and I have a beautiful, independent and strong daughter with whom to share it. Do I miss camp? Absolutely! But, I get to watch my daughter love Brown Ledge and that might be better than going to camp myself. And, there is always alumnae camp when I am free to relive my days on Mallets Bay. This picture of Ellie and me waterskiing together at alumnae camp last summer pretty much sums up how I feel about having a Brown Ledger. I will cherish this moment forever and will likely be nostalgic for it every time I look at this photo. There is incredible power in nostalgia.