Milestones Beyond the Machaneh

By Hannah Samson

For 11 years, I sat around Camp Interlaken’s campfires that closed with the final line of Bless This House: “Friendships won may never die.” Nothing was truer than that statement. The 11 months outside of camp were filled with communication and visits with my ultimate best friends—camp friends. The phrase “camp friends” simply communicated where I met them, not the physical boundaries of where our friendship existed. 

Throughout those years at camp, my best camp friends and I saw each other through milestones both on campgrounds and off of Lake Finley’s shores. We celebrated Bat Mitzvahs together, first kisses, first ski-runs around the lake, college acceptances, and more. If there was something to celebrate or a shoulder needed for a cry, camp friends were the first call. That said, when we no longer attended camp and its magical scaffolding was not in place to support our decade-plus friendship, would we still be as close?

I knew that our friendships were strong enough to overcome the loss of built-in physical closeness that camp provided, but I did not imagine that our friendships would grow stronger into adulthood and we would shepherd each other through milestones beyond the machaneh.    

Even without “living 11 months for 1,” the physical closeness between my camp friends and me remained. I visited Sophie Burton and Sarah Zieve at the University of Michigan many times during college, and Marissa Korte would come in for the University of Wisconsin games! We frequently visited each other’s hometowns. Closeness was further maintained through regular texts, calls, and FaceTimes. 

As we matured through college, our friendships matured with us. We helped each other through life changes that Shoresh-us would be unable to fathom and have built relationships with each other’s life partners. 

In 2019, we returned to camp with our significant others. There was no way we were going to spend the rest of our lives with people who had not witnessed Camp Interlaken’s magic firsthand. They watched as we sweat through our clothes during Israeli dancing and reminisced about a lifetime of memories. Our significant others finally understood how the strong foundation of our friendship was built, and how it provided the support needed to survive and thrive beyond camp’s gates. 

We saw each other through the milestone of introducing our significant others to the most special place on earth, and they stood next to me in January 2022 during another milestone—getting married. My wedding would not have been the same if they were not bridesmaids, as our closeness is unmatched. I truly cannot wait to do the same for Sophie in a few months! Experiencing milestones alongside those who have been with me through all of my own is a joy that only camp can provide and for that, I am forever grateful.

As I write this, I watch as my electronic, revolving picture frame randomizes pictures inclusive of 20 years of photographs with camp friends. As I write this, I am texting camp friends. As I write this, my computer background remains a picture of a stunning sunset over Lake Finley. 

Camp friends and Camp Interlaken’s influence last long after we are no longer campers or counselors. I am lucky to have experienced life’s milestones, both within and beyond the machaneh, alongside these girls, now women.