Oh, That Bayside Magic!
If you like marshmallows, campfires, singing songs, being meditative in the woods, and watching your kids bond with others, young and old, read on.
It's a restorative week that we spend in the woods, every summer. When our boys were tiny-three years old and one-we started asking around at our Universalist Unitarian church in Peoria if anyone knew of a good family camp. We did a little research until we found a spot and took the plunge. It was a special week. Swimming in the lake, games with young and old, singing, and adult Morning Celebration in a circle under the trees. My kids were being looked after by counselors all morning! If that's all that Bayside had to offer for a week, it would have sold me on the spot. But there was so much more.
I recall my older son had just learned how to ride a bike, and years later, people still remember him falling. I remember it, too. Not so much for the scrape he got on his chin but more for the freedom that he was given, racing down that hill. Kids at Bayside are trusted. They are allowed to take risks and even at three, my son felt an acceptance, a sense of freedom, and an awareness that he was surrounded by loving people, ready to be there for him if he were to fall. Normally a very shy kid, one evening he sat alone in the middle of a large circle of people at Evening Vespers dancing to the rhythm of his own drum, as is his way. I decided then and there that we'd found a second home.
But our work-lives took us overseas for a few years, and Bayside-that idyllic camp with those kind-hearted souls-became just a memory for us. When it looked like we'd be back in the US for the summers, we again started thinking about vacations. Then it hit us. Of course! Bayside! Let's look no further and let's go back there! It was the right decision, and we've been going back every summer since. Another mom told me, in those early years, that her kids say there are birthdays, Christmas, and Bayside. It has become that much of a tradition in our family, too. We still live overseas during the school year. And during the summer months we come back to our family in Chicago, and then we come back to our Bayside Family. There, our children have been given a constant in their ever-changing lives. They've come to rely on the familiar faces and big, open hearts waiting to welcome them every summer.
A new generation of little people now sit in the laps of the older folks, laps that my own children once sat in. Now, my boys-introverted teens-help out the little ones and then stay up late with their teen friends, all pillows and games and snacks and secrets and their own teen world.
Bayside moved homes since we first started attending. The good news is that the food is better. And the space is more comfortable. And when the sun sets on the lake during Evening Vespers, allowing us to take one more glimpse of it through the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the water and the surrounding trees, we say goodnight to another full day of Bayside Magic and all that it brings us-camaraderie, connection, fullness, mindfulness, and joy.
If you feel a pull to join us, trust me. You'd be making the circle even more complete.
More Bayside Magic!
The mornings start with joyous exclamations of "I got one!" drifting up from the eager fisherkids on the dock. The evenings end with bleary-eyed adults regretfully putting away the musical instruments and wandering blissfully off to bed.
The week starts with giddy reunions and new friendships. It ends with five minutes' fame at the Bayside Talent Show and freshly-hatched schemes to move into each other's neighborhoods.
We wish it could happen all year long - but it does happen for one solid week in July and our family wouldn't miss it for the world!
Bayside is a Unitarian village. A safe, warm, and nurturing place for raising the child in all of us.
We invite you to join us at our rustic Wisconsin get-away. It is a quiet area - free of automobiles, concrete, and traffic - with a wide grassy hillside, large shade trees for lounging and playing, a gorgeous view of the lake, and our own dock for fishing, sunning, and boating.
Most importantly, it is a place where we live out our Unitarian Universalist principles and spend priceless moments with our ever-growing family.
- Cliff Missen
Bait Applicator and Sunfish Extractor (morning shift)