Camp Round Top

Camp Round Top


My parents sent me and my older brother to summer camp for a few years just outside Taos, New Mexico.  Camp Elkhorn was not a fancy summer camp like some of my friends attended as kids.  And it certainly wasn't anything like Camp Walden in the Parent Trap movies. 

I remember being little when I first went, so I checked with my mom to verify.  I started going to "sleep away" summer camp in a different state when I was six years old.  I texted her to confirm and she replied "I know, horrible mother - but you begged", that and my older brother had been for a few years and was there with me when I convinced her to let me go too.

Knowing now how old I was as a camper - my memories make a little more sense.  Giggling and being mortified the one morning when we went into the breakfast hall and there was a bra hanging off the antlers above the door.  Complaining about the distance we had to walk between crafts and archery.  Not getting to flip my own steak at our hot rock steak cookout.  Now, I can totally see a first grade kid responding to those things.

Summer camp was everything to me.  It's where I learned to bite the ends of Twizzler licorice sticks off and use them as straws to drink 7up from a can.  I used to take a bowl and scoop out ant mounds - then sit at a picnic table and sift through the sand pulling out garnets. (I just fact checked myself on that one through google - ant mound garnets ARE a thing in NM). I tooled a leather belt with my name - wish I still had that.  I went white water rafting, tent camping in Cimmaron Pass, learned to shoot a bow and arrow and bb guns.  Exhausted at the end of activity filled days that started when the sun came up - we'd sit around a campfire and roast marshmallows and sing camp songs every night.  Then we would use flashlights to walk back to our cabins where we stayed up even later whispering ghost stories to each other from our bunk beds.

Feelings of homesickness were real, getting letters from home helped.  Near the end of camp, I couldn't wait to have my own bed, shower, and my mom's cooking. That last day when our parents pulled in to pick us up I was always so excited.  But on the ride home, I'd be upset - sad to leave.  My parent's assurance that I could go back the next summer helped somewhat.

There are several people who refer to Round Top as "camp".  I first heard it from my friend Johnnie from Oysterbelle. It immediately struck a chord as the perfect description of our 2.5 weeks in town as vendors.  I could see it fit for shoppers too who came in to stay for more than a few days.

We actually start weeks before the show - taking inventory, packing, prepping, arranging, building out, setting up.  It's not unusual to start the show tired.  Mornings seem to come early and our days are filled with friends - new and old. Show season is the only time I get to see some of my favorite people. There are sleep overs with friends in places other than our own homes.

 No campfires and marshmallows.  But sharing stories with friends over a cocktail in the evening feels similar.  At night use our phones as flashlights to find our way from the car to the cattle wire we have to disconnect to get to the house we rent. I know that Heidi and I get sillier the more tired we grow in the evenings. We might not share ghost stories - but there are some occasional squeals of fright over the unexpected bug or unexplained noises. And there is always a fit of laughter that can only be explained by exhaustion.  

Creatively thinking of ways to use your favorite finds counts as arts and crafts, right?  Prepping our stores and booths count too. We are surrounded by art in the fields of Round Top - it's pretty incredible.  You might not bring it all home in a paper grocery bag (that's how we packed up our yarn and leather crafts, drawings, etc.) but you get to experience it.

I've never known weather to stop a Round Top shopper - doesn't seem to stop summer camp either. Nothing that rainboots and a good attitude can't solve. 

There is the homesickness - wanting our own beds, missing our families ...  Text messages and facetime replace handwritten letters.

As the last day of show nears we seem to finish up work or shopping on a surge of adrenaline.  Cramming in late night catch ups over drinks with friends.  Scrambling to see everything we felt like we missed.  Putting together one more funky Round Top style look - because we might not wear it when we go home.

And then it's over.  There's relief and sleep - but everyone always asks "when is the next show"?

My mom sent me another text several minutes after I first messaged. "I was so scared the whole time and felt so guilty".  Mom, you didn't screw up - you didn't break me - summer camp in New Mexico was the right thing for me at the right time.  I love that you let me push boundaries even as a little kid.

187 more sleeps to the next Camp Round Top!  (Plus or minus depending on your venue - some dates have shifted.  Watch the Chamber of Commerce for information and ALWAYS google your favorite venue to confirm!

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