Musings from an FMC Returnee

My sister, Jocelyn, is a former camper and staff member and volunteered to write a blog post after visiting us this past weekend. Here are her thoughts on FMC after our move to Earlham:

My first summer at FMC I was 12 year old four-weeker and had only been playing oboe two years. It was the longest I’d ever been away from home, and I was one of the youngest in the girls’ dorm. Homesickness and the initial (unfounded) sense of being unworthy resulted in my first week being absolutely terrible. If there was one thing I thought I knew, it’s that I hated FMC.

But kids being kids, I eventually adapted. I found a group of girls my age that I was rarely without. I befriended a few of the older kids, too, so I always felt included. And even though I was nowhere near what could be described as good at oboe, I felt safe enough that I wasn’t concerned about being judged for my abilities.

Over the years, I came to not only look forward to the intangible aspects of FMC but also its physical home Olney Friends School. I love(d) the grounds. Waking up to fresh dew on the grass, watching the sun rise over the lake and set over the soccer field, the swing under the tree by the boy’s dorm, the hub-like nature of the main building’s front porch, the buses getting stuck behind an Amish horse and buggy at least once. It was all for me.

(My love for the Olney campus even went so far as influencing where I went to college when upon my first visit, my olfactory memory was triggered, and I was convinced for the briefest moment I was actually in southeastern Ohio and not south-central Kansas.)

And apparently I didn’t get enough in my five years as a camper, considering I came back to counsel for another four summers.

But now, twelve years after my first summer at FMC and having spent half my life dreaming about, loving, and being changed by this camp, a lot of things seem to be different, at least on the surface. Most notably is the relocation to Earlham College.

As I’m sure you can imagine given my professed love for Olney, when I initially heard about the possibility for FMC to move, I was not a fan. While there were a zillion reasons for Earlham to become our new home, I struggled to get comfortable with it. For me, FMC was so wrapped up in its physical location, I struggled to see how it would work anywhere else. For the staff, many of whom had been at FMC for 10+ years, the prospect of Earlham was exciting but the thought of leaving Olney and its ghosts behind was equally painful.

But as we all know, FMC moved to Earlham.

Due to personal matters, I was unable to return as a counselor this year but have had the privilege to visit. I was at Earlham for all of 15 hours, 7 of which I slept, but the time still spoke volumes.

Driving to camp, I was curious to see how it would be. I knew FMC had fewer campers than normal and obviously the spaces were different, but outside of that, I didn’t quite know what I was walking into. I couldn’t help but worry the camp I loved would be unrecognizable.

I should have had more faith in the resiliency of FMC.

Yes, the place is different, but the reality is, everything I truly love about FMC still exists anyway.

Driving up to the part of campus where FMC is concentrated, I saw a bunch of campers sitting on an adjacent field while others ran around playing Ultimate Frisbee, a sight that was common at Olney. (Those campers then walked to evening collection as gross as ever. Again, a common occurrence from the Olney days.)

Within ten minutes of walking into the dorm, I heard singing from two campers who became staple campers over my tenure as counselor. At collection, campers still partook in cuddle puddles, though they seemed to be more comfortable than years past thanks to the air conditioning. Hearing gentle rustling, I still found campers who couldn’t settle into the silence signaling to each other, resulting in staff members shooting them playful glares.

The campers were still impossible when it came to going to bed. Adults (and a few of the older campers) still had to explain the benefits of regular showering. The staffers were still consuming mass amounts of iced coffee from the closest, cheapest place with coffee. It used to be McDonald’s, now it’s Tim Horton’s.

Someone had inevitably lost something. A ukelele was abandoned in a dorm lounge. Despite the upcoming benefit concert in Yellow Springs, chorus rehearsal was the bizarre balance of focus and fun that only FMCers seem capable of achieving, getting work done while still managing to have fun at the same time.

I am still Joci, a nickname I came to FMC with but eventually stopped using. A nickname which seemed to stick in this place, despite the three year gap between my time as a camper and counselor, during which I forgot that “Joci” was my name at camp. But camp didn’t forget.

Really the only thing I noticed missing was the giant pile of shoes which became notorious with the girls’ dorm entryway at Olney, something which I’m sure everyone is fine to see gone, despite the joy staffers got from holding said shoes hostage when they weren’t retrieved in a timely manner.

While I did not see everything about FMC’s new life at Earlham, I am now 100% sure that it is still the FMC I came to love as a child. FMC may not look the same on the surface anymore, but the spirit is the same. It is full, it is love, and it is still somewhere to call home and family, regardless of the nostalgia embedded in this musing.

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One thought on “Musings from an FMC Returnee

  1. Hi, to all FMC friends and campers. My violin teacher from many years ago stopped by my house recently. And it brought back many memories. And of those FMC at Olney Friends School are some of my most treasured. My name is Susan Phenis (Wooley) and attended camp in 1980 and 1981. After all these years I started checking out information about the camp wondering if it was still going and if Peg and Jean continued to run it. And was it still the wonderful place I remembered as a young camper. I was thrilled to find out it was still thriving for all of these years but find it strange that in the 2016 it took place about 15 minutes from where I live. I would have loved to have stopped by this summer, but just today learned of it taking place at Earlham College.

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