An Extended Family Affair by Holly Lyons
When my twin sister and I started Riva-Lake in 1975, we were already 3rd generation campers. Our grandmother, Hazel “Dear” Butcher, and mother, Sally LeBlanc, had tread the worn gravel paths of CRL long before our eight year old, tennis shoe-clad feet added our crunchy refrain to the symphony of wonderful camp sounds. Beautiful music to my ears even all these years later. Cicadas chirping! Horses neighing! Basketballs bouncing! Falling into camp rhythms is different for every camper, but having a sister there provides a comfort (and healthy competition) even if we weren’t joined at the hip. Though some rocky homesickness ensued for one of us that first summer (note: not me), by the end of our first 8 week stint, we were sold. This was our sum
mer home, and our family had blossomed to include all of our new bunkmates, teammates and sisters. Tears flowed as we were put on a bus at the end to head home. Of course we were returning the next summer; we had to see our new family again. Over the next few years our bond to this hilltop overlooking the lake grew more profound. We wrote long missives to our friends through the winter months, then reveled in the return to our beloved second home and our summer family. We sang all of the camp and team songs to our younger cousins, as we spent spring Sunday afternoons at Dear’s house grilling. Soon all of our cousins were singing the songs too, defacto campers without having stepped foot on our slice of perfection. DeSaix and I are four years older than our next cousin, and so on it goes - with 5 camper-age girl cousins falling in line behind us. 7 of us in total. Having heard all about our campy exploits (including canoe trips, team meetings and basketball games), our cousins eventually decided to make CRL their summer home away from home, too. I like to think we piqued their curiosity, and certainly it was a unique opportunity for us to deepen our connection with our younger kin. Jena, Margo, Sara, Laura and Emily all joined us at camp over time. Because Dear is our mutual grandmother, we are all Olympians. This was good in many ways, as it meant DeSaix and I were able to look after our younger cousins a little more closely. We knew their big sisters, their counselors and could help them if necessary. There was even some good-spirited pranking along the way just to keep things spicy. But it also created a bond between us that we would not have had without Riva-Lake. Time, free of distractions to just be in nature with our cousins, also our teammates, collecting wood, going to team meetings, cheering for each other in basketball games and horse shows. Looking back, I am so grateful that my cousins were able to experience Riva-Lake with us. I believe this has informed our adulthood relationships and cemented our mutual connections. Time is a gift, and I am so grateful that my female cousins share this profound Moment in Time in my memories and my heart.