Anna is my daughter.
I remember the first time I said that, standing at some weird window in the downstairs hall of Dartmouth, trying to fill out paperwork for her. She was three days old. I said it like three times in a row after that, and laughed, and I remember the woman behind the counter not being as entertained by my use of the word.
From the time she was little, she was obsessed with little things. Little bears we found at Michael’s. Then little charms, little figurines, little dolls like Polly Pocket and the Littlest Pet Shop. Anything she could make tiny to carry around was her favorite. I don’t know when she started to make these little things on her own, because it seems as though she’s been doing it forever, but I know it grew from her love of art and her love of all things little. When we found the New Art Center in Newton, Massachusetts, and she spent her first day of camp there, I knew we’d found her thing.
She’d been going to camp for years – or some version of camp, but not because I wanted her to, out of necessity. There is no other choice (for a lot of parents, I know) other than a puzzle piece of summer camp and grandparent camp and whateverelse comes in between, in those months that school has ended, the months I longed for as a kid and loathed as a parent. Anna always hated camp – and school – and anything that pulled her in a direction of a schedule and what she perceived as dictatorship, although she would not have articulated it like that. Prior to being a parent, if I would have listened to another parent state that their child ‘didn’t like to be told what to do’ I would have thought they were insane. But you have to tell children what to do! I would think, quietly, to myself. It was the rules. Additionally, prior to being a parent myself, the research I did was not around this part of parenting, because I thought it was a given – that you might make decisions around breastfeeding versus bottle, or organic versus – well, McDonald’s, but not around this. It wasn’t until the New Art Center, where Anna was given freedom to make choices around what she would do with her art, while being guided and taught by people that were well-trained in the art they were teaching themselves, until Anna moved into what I would describe as her happy place.
When she got home the first day, at 6 years old, she told me to sit down so she could do the dishes. That I’d had a long day. I think she might have been whistling. Yes, it might seem as though I’m only saying Art Camp worked because I got to sit down, but it wasn’t just that – it was like she was herself when she left there. She couldn’t wait to go back. To drop your child off to someone else’s care repeatedly, when you know they’re unhappy but can manage, and to then have this, was indescribable. I was so happy she was happy.
Although we continued at the New Art Center, when we moved a few years ago, to be closer to family, to find our home, we lost her connection to the New Art Center. She continued taking classes nearby to our new home, and continued her art on her own, but we didn’t find anywhere that matched the New Art Center, until we stumbled upon – repeatedly, Buck’s Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp. For the past three years, we have stared at the website and talked of how it was a place she had to go, and then moved on to the camps that are local, because it was out of our reach. We then heard there was scholarship potential, and decided it couldn’t hurt entirely to go see what the camp was like. We had a friend nearby. It would be a road trip. Maybe it would be terrible?
It wasn’t terrible.
It was amazing.
We were there when it was quiet, the campers had gone home, which allowed us to explore the grounds with the Executive Director on our own. There was everything. Everything you could possibly want to do in the world of the arts was accessible, is accessible, and there is someone there to guide you, while you make your own decisions about what you want to do, in a safe environment. When we left, all I could think was that everyone I knew should have gone there. We should be going there now, you guys. It wasn’t just the access to art, though, it was the access to other people from other parts of the world. It will make her world bigger, or smaller, I suppose. Access to a community of people that most of us can’t find until college – or adulthood – people that like the same things you do. People that thrive in the environments you do. I think some of us never find that – our people.
We left knowing she had to go – well, she did, I left knowing we never could. In 2018, though, Buck’s Rock moved to a sliding scale tuition process, and our momentum came back. We brainstormed ideas. Anna wanted to sell her art for her tuition, I enlisted our community to help us figure out the best way to do that. The process of doing this together, with the help of our community of friends and family, has been something I cannot put into words. I think she will be learning from this process & this summer for a long time to come.
I spent the first part of Anna’s life doing my best to maintain a solid outer appearance. Independence is important to me, and being able to raise her on my own was equally important. I never did though, we have always been surrounded by a community that supported us in big and small and everyday and long-term ways. With pick-ups, and drop-offs, and supervision and finances and car trouble and good, listening ears, and coolers of food on the front porch when we’d come home from a hospital stay. When I realize how big our community is, how many good people we are surrounded by, I am overwhelmed. I would say this has been no different, but the difference that I hope she realizes as soon as she can, is that she has a community that is supporting her in her dreams in a way that I cannot imagine I ever could have had at her age. If she can settle in to how many people believe in her, I can only imagine she will believe in herself, which, if that is the only thing that comes out of a month-long stay at Buck’s Rock, oh my goodness.
In a few short weeks, she has reached 80% of the goal she needs to in order to make camp a reality. She’s made and packaged her goods, brought her grades up (a condition of her entry, along with the tuition) and for the most part, we have maintained a peaceful existence.
About a week ago, Anna applied for and received a grant from Kids Five and Over, an all-volunteer local nonprofit dedicated to helping children grow their talents and find their niche. The leader of the organization decided for her 50th birthday, she wanted to start a nonprofit to give back to the community. She was a teacher, and had seen kids that had passions they couldn’t pursue, and wanted that to change. The grant funds helped Anna get to over 70%, and over the last week that has become 80%.
We have 20% to go, community. I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done to get her this close, and hope that you can help her kick it over the goal line.
To buy Anna’s art, the proceeds of which will go towards her tuition: Click here
To donate directly to her tuition: Click here
To donate directly to Kids Five and Over, helping other kids get to camp or pursue their dreams: Click here
VIP: Leigh Soule
Community of Support:
Linda & Sylvio Laplante – Amy Locke – Meredith Leighton – Courtney Leighton – Adam Woodall – Brian Cloutier – Kacie Welch – Jenn Millas – Scott McKee – Sarah Lane – Stephanie Bean – Peter Weeks – George Carlisle – Nathan Donaldson – Alexandra Stenquist – Heather Vashaw – David Dulong – Amy Hubbard – Kate Banach – Phyllis Ellis – Jennifer Philbrook – Jillian Jurilla – Phyllis LaPointe – Nancy Hamm – Cherie Boursage – Dutton – Megan Ulland – Olivia Lord – Meg Salgado – Christine Amicone – Phyllis Demartino – Jillian Marshall – Jennie MacDougall – Rachel Neubauer – Eileen McGinnis – Mark Mantell – Noelle Grattan – Myia Parent – Sara Millas – Shawn Marquis – Heather Strangeflower – Susan Ashman – Josie Halle – Carla Welch – Erin Teague – Jessica Paradis – Kristina Gelardi – Sabina Coutis – Beth LeFleur – Alison Williams – Ted Dumont – Judy Andrews – Amy Miller – Scarlett Hoey – Melissa Zani – Ashley Parent – Melanie Valliere – Megan Stuart – Becki Green – Aurora Montgomery – Nora McCarthy – Tricia Marucci – Scott Helman – Kelley Potvin – Ashley Rodrigues – Amy Knapp – Rolanda Duchesne – Jonathan Place – Tom Ellis – Jennifer Walker – Lauren Henderson.