Candlelight by Katherine Decker, alumna

Nighttime at the beginning of August at a girl’s sleepaway camp in New Hampshire, the last night of the session approaches with bittersweet anticipation for the final candlelight ceremony. The last stroke of the sun finally falls through the clouds, trees, lake, and grass, a slate blue haze replaces the once bright sky. Cooling breezes wrap themselves through the pines and down over the water. Twinkling bugs spontaneously flash an appearance. Cicadas echo through the fading heat. The once warm dust of the pines rose into our noses reminding us of the day that disappeared all too soon. There are a slight buzz and energy humming around as girls use the amber glowing cabin light to rustle around getting pajamas, pillows, and blankets. Soft giggles rise and fall as pittering of small feet make their way down the worn cabin steps. Once cabins are in their own organized clumps, a burning knot finds its way to the back of my throat. The fluttering happiness of being in a sacred bubble is battled by the knowledge of eventual sadness in the hour to come.

Each girl wraps their pinky around another cabin mate, some with bonds that have and will last forever, and some with a sense of newfound friendship. We got along without each other before we met, but we sure couldn’t do it now. No matter the strength, all are connected. Soft drops of footsteps enter from the left as other clusters make their way towards stripes of white benches. One by one each cabin follows like a chain falling into place on a gear, moving collectively towards the chapel. Finally, it’s our turn, we enter the crowd and our line immediately slinks closer and farther away while our pinkies hold steady. We follow and follow towards a gleam in the dark relying on our minds and our friends in front to lead us in the right direction. Suddenly we turn a corner and look over our destination. Rows and rows of white benches neatly stack themselves in the amphitheater, curving down and onto the view of the lake. The breeze pushes calm lips of water onto each other and soft feathery voices over our ears. Sweet songs of smiles, laughs, tears, and love roll off each girl’s tongue, feeling as familiar as saying our own names. I am handed a cool smooth candle and a small sheet of paper and follow once again towards our bench. The worn softwood arches down as if inviting you to linger a while longer. Voices dim as our camp director lights her candle. She lights the candles of those around her, and then the counselors around them, and then the campers next to them until a million twinkling orbs fill the night sky and add a soft glimmer to our faces. We are once again all connected. Time passes by slowly in the moment but it seems in an instant it’s time to leave. The burning knot in my throat swells, knowing the end is closer than it was before.

The gear starts to turn once again as cabins leave with their shining specks of light one by one. Our turn comes and we find ourselves where we started in front of our cabin, standing in a crest. Voices settle as the crackling speakers awaken to sing the last song of taps. Glossy eyes look up at friends as tears are made shinier by the flame beneath them. The last note of taps sounds sputters into silence, and each girl simultaneously blows out their light, and darkness blankets itself over each Huckins girl in a bittersweet hug goodbye.