It all began in the summer of 1988 when my parents packed up our car. We began our countless hour journeys from Youngstown, Ohio to FaHoLo Deaf Family Camp in Grass Lake, Michigan. The excitement and thrill that would rush through my veins when going to FAHOLO sent visions to my head about who I would see first, where I would be staying, what I would be doing, and to what fun places I would go. You are never too old to go to FAHOLO, there is always something to do no matter what age you are. Although the cost of camp was somewhat on the pricey side, every dime we spent getting there was well worth it. You cannot place a cost on memories and the people you meet while you are at camp. My memories of camp began when my parents and I arrived at FAHOLO each year. We would unload the car as fast as we could so we could go to the loud sanctuary. As we walked up to the sanctuary we could hear very loud music coming from it, the vibrations shaking the building and the buildings around it.
When you walk into the sanctuary all you see is hearing, hard of hearing, deaf, and special needs, all coming together to learn and worship the Lord. It is such an incredible site to see. After the evening service had ended, we would all go to the dining hall. I can remember hearing the doors creak open and the smell of the oak wood inside the lobby. When you walked into the dining hall you could smell whatever was cooking. The first night of camp was always pizza. The pizza that night was delicious; the crust was thick, the sauce very light, the cheese was extra thick, and the toppings piled on high. I remember sitting down to eat pizza, seeing hands signing, and recognizing faces I hadn’t seen in years. I remember eating pizza every year with my best friends Jaclyn, Amanda, Amber, Amy, and BJ. We’d sit and talk about all the fun we had over the past year, sports, the things we were going to do during the week, and how much fun we were going to have. We would then start to plan out what activities we wanted to do first.
As the night came to an end, we said our goodbyes and headed to our different dorms. Jaclyn, Amanda, Amber, Amy, and I always stayed in the Girls Dorm. I can vividly remember the smell of the old dorm room as I opened the door– mold and bleach. I can remember hearing giggling, seeing the deaf girls signing, and my friends Amanda, Amber, Amy, and Jaclyn all unpacking their things into dressers as I walked down the hall to my room.. By the time I got done unpacking I was tired and ready for bed and the next day as well. I was ready to learn who’s class I was going to be in for the week and I was excited and ready to learn,but most of all I was looking forward to my free time during the afternoon because we were able to do whatever activities we wanted. After our morning classes and lunch came free time in which we could choose from many activities during the afternoon. We had the choices of going swimming in the pool, swimming at the lake, paddle boating, kayaking, canoeing, jumping off the blob, jumping on the water trampoline, playing softball or volleyball, go-karts, riding horses, climbing the rock wall, or going on group trips.
For days on end my best friends and I would swim carefree in the glimmering waters of the pool and lake. The outside pool is where I learned how to swim in the deep end and float on my back. I even saved a little girl from drowning because her parents were not paying attention to her. Grass Lake, is the lake where I learned how to row a canoe, kayake, and how to properly skip rocks. I will never forget the crisp, clean air, seeing the ripples of the water on the lake from skipping rocks, and the sound of oars going in and coming out of the water. As the sun slowly began to set, the lake would slowly grow cold. The night sky filled with bright, twinkling stars. It looked as if someone spilled a container of glitter in the sky. I loved those nights, wouldn’t you? My absolute favorite memory of camp was the bonfire and hayrides every year.
I loved the smell of bonfires, the sound of the wood as it crackled and popped, and of logs collapsing as they disintegrated into nothing but ash while amber ashes floated into the night sky. The best part about a bonfire was roasting marshmallows. I’d sit and watch the marshmallow turn from white to a light amber color and that’s how I knew my marshmallow was perfect. I remember making a smore one night and giving it to my friend Amanda. She sat and bragged about how good the smore was and told people to have me make their smores. One by one people started coming up to me and asking me to make a smore for them. It was fun for meto compete with other people to see who could make a better smore, but I’d always win. While the bonfire was still going, the grounds keeper came to the campgrounds with his red horse drawn wagon and would take turns loading groups of people into the wagon. I loved getting to ride in the wagon with all my friends, talking, laughing, signing, of course, and just being goofy. I remember looking at the night sky thinking “could this get any better?” and it usually did by my friends burying me or someone else in the hay.
I can remember laying down in the wagon and having hay thrown on top of me, stuffed down my sweatshirt, and even into my socks and shoes. I was so warm buried under all the hay. When the hayride came to an end, I had to get out from under all the hay that was thrown on top of me. It was not fun trying to get all the hay off of me. I had to go take a shower to get it all off. I seriously did not know that hay could hide in the tiniest of places. As the night came to a close, I was reminded of how camp was coming to an end. The end of camp was the best but yet the saddest time. Even though everyone was sad that camp was coming to an end, it was still a time of joy and happiness. We made our last day the best. On the last day of camp there would always be a Talent Show. I was in the talent show one year.
Since it was a deaf camp and not many people saw me sign I decided to sign a song. I was so nervous when I got on stage, but my nerves subsided when I saw my parents in the audience cheering me on. As I began to sign I saw the looks on peoples faces and their expressions were priceless. They looked stunned like they couldn’t believe that I knew how to sign as well as I did. After the talent show, people came up to me and told me that I was astounding, amazing, and that I needed to pursue a career in interpreting. The people also congratulated me on winning the talent show. After the talent show was finished we had a formal banquet to celebrate.
It was incredible to see how men could go from wearing basketball shorts and tank tops to suits, the women from shorts and t shirts to dresses and skirts. Before the banquet we would always take a picture of everyone who came to camp. We then proceeded to the dining hall which was decorated each year with a theme. We would be seated at tables and treated like guests at a fancy fest or a royal ball. We used proper manners, ate very well cooked meals, had dessert, talked, and just had fun.
After the banquet was over it was time to leave. At the end of the banquet we said our goodbyes, hugged our friends, packed the car, and started our countless hour journey back to Ohio, keeping the memories of the dazzling lake, the nice cool pool, the crisp Michigan summer air, the twinkling stars, the sweet smells of the bonfire, and the fun memories with friends in our minds. Even though I was sad to leave, I knew I’d be back next year seeing the same people and creating more memories.