Once upon a time, before the age of social media, and even before the age of digital cameras, 13-year-old Kate went to summer camp. Not just any camp, either. I spent three weeks during the summers of 1988 and 1989 at the Joseph Baldwin Academy (for “eminent young scholars” – say that three times fast!). Three weeks with about 130 kids from all over the country, living in dorms at what was then Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State). Three weeks away from home with strangers sounded like a horrible plan to me when my parents first suggested it. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.
|me - circa 1989|
You learn a lot about the people you’re living with in close quarters over three weeks. And you make some amazing friends. You wouldn’t think that three weeks would be enough time to make that big of an impact, but this also predated email, and so when we all went our separate ways after the summer was over, we wrote each other letters: pages and pages of letters. Real letters. Certainly, if you know anything about me, you know how much I love letter writing – it’s something I do not do nearly as much as I should anymore. So, not only did we know each other from living together, we actually got to know each other even more through the letters we’d exchange. I wish I’d saved more of those letters.
|Taline and me - 1989|
The people I met at JBA are still some of the most amazing people I know, and this past weekend, four of us met in Iowa at my friend Andy’s farm for a reunion 25 years in the making. John, Taline and Andy are four people that I’ve spent time with separately over the years: one went to college near KC and we saw each other then, I was at the wedding of another in the mid 1990s, and thanks to Facebook, we’ve been privy to photos and snippets of each others lives for the past several years. But, it had literally been 25 years since the four of us had all been in the same room at the same time. I have to be honest I was a little bit skeptical about this reunion. I have such wonderful memories of these people and I wasn’t sure I wanted to change any of that. What if we weren’t the same people? What if one of us sucks now? I mean, 25 years is a LONG time. Someone might suck.
|John, me, Andy, 1989|
I’m so glad I went and I’m super happy to report that nobody sucked. My friend Andy has a lovely wife and six children. Six. I’ll be honest, I’ve never wanted more than the two kids I have, but if anyone makes having six children look appealing, it’s Andy and Laura Lynn. Opening your home to complete strangers has to be a true test, and Laura Lynn made us all feel so comfortable in her beautiful home with delicious food, drinks and plenty of good music – some even played by their talented daughters.
|Taline and Bronwyn Taline (yep, we even name kids after each other)|
If anything, I just wanted more time with these people. I drove home thinking about my time at JBA – which I still regard as one of the best parts of my growing up. I laughed thinking about the photos: our hair, our outfits, our awkwardness. (My friend Taline will argue we never were awkward, but the photos tell another story!) I also got a little teary thinking that I hope it won’t be another 25 years before I see these people again. I wondered if we all lived in the same town if we would hang out. I like to think we would. Finally, I just started thinking about my own children. I loved watching them play with the children of my friends. I wish for my girls that they will be lucky enough in their lives to find friends as good as mine. I wish for them that the friends they make when they are kids are amazing enough to want to see them 25 years later. I’m a lucky, lucky person to have John, Taline and Andy (and now Andy’s wife Laura Lynn) in my life. I hope my girls are half as lucky.
|John, Taline, Andy, Me - 25 years later.|
|nerd offspring - JBA 2020!|