Post by Jessica R.

When my sister first went to camp she got a trunk. A big, navy blue trunk with gold corners and hinges. I coveted that trunk. It was so big and so roomy, you could fit anything in there. It smelled of leather and adventure.

I don’t know where the camp trunk tradition originated, or even why it has been perpetuated. Trunks are anything but easily portable and a decent suitcase holds just as much. All I know is that that trunk symbolized going away to camp, and I wanted to have it.

She left and came back and the trunk had lost some of its newness, but none of its lure. My mother put it away in the attic where it stayed until the next summer when my sister went off to camp again.

Years later I finally got to pack my own bathing suit, shorts, socks and books into that trunk. I ran my hands over its now well-worn top and imagined the adventures I would have—sleeping in a cabin, canoeing in the lake, making s’mores around the campfire.

I had no idea. My imagination didn’t even touch on the fun I ended up having. Camp that summer was an incredible blend of friendship and fun, adventures and discovery. I had five roles in the camp play, learned to make lanyards and discovered the joy of short-sheeting beds and the frustration of discovering that the other cabin has retaliated by putting our mattresses on the roof.

But no memory is fonder than the memory opening that trunk for the first time while settling into my cabin, a little homesick, a little nervous, and discovering the treats and notes my mother had hidden in all the nooks and crannies she could find. To this day, the picture of a camp trunk brings to mind my mother, packing up to send her daughter off for the first time and wanting to hide love where she could.

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Category: Mom Talk
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4 Responses

  1. My favorite part about going to camp was getting new pajamas to wear. Then mom would take out the “indelible marker” pen and label all of my clothes. That, and when she would pack up the raincoat. No other time in the year did I wear a raincoat. Umbrella, yes, but a raincoat was saved for being away at camp when rain didn’t stop much and was necessary for afternoons running around and dancing through puddles!

  2. Torturedmommy says:

    How funny. For me that trunk meant going away to college. We packed duffel bags for camp, but then again the longest I was ever at camp was 2 weeks I think.

  3. Jessy says:

    My favorite thing about these trunks was taping pictures of my dogs, guinea pigs and parents to the inside so I wouldn’t get homesick. I bet if I flew home to my parents and went down to find our old trunks in their basement, the pictures would still be there. Thanks for the lovely nostalgia!

  4. I found this 2010 post while doing some SEO work for my website and felt compelled to chime in. (full disclosure…my company manufactures camp trunks. The photo above is one of ours I believe 🙂 I enjoyed your article and comments, and I just wanted to simply say… You nailed it! Camp trunks aren’t absolutely essential for summer camp (unless of course the camp mandates). A majority of the value in a good camp steamer trunk is the nostalgia and memories it stores for years to come.

    Jeff Connolly

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