Megan Etter spent the first twenty-one Julys of her life at Mount Hermon and wrote down her memories for a class while a senior at Wheaton College. The following are some excerpts. Megan is now 28 and lives in Parker, Colorado.
Childhood Enchantment – July 1994
“I’m going back to my Mount Hermon home. It’s the sweetest fellowship I’ve ever known. Though I’ve roamed far away, in my heart I’ll always stay in the redwoods of my Mount Hermon home,” I heard Jack Pearson singing from the center of Victory Circle while small sparks from the campfire trickled up into the starry sky. I sat sandwiched between my dad and sister and listened as my dad heartily sang along. I didn’t understand why he liked this song so much; I was far more excited for Jack to sing the “Monster Minnesota Mosquito” song. “Give me type A, give me type O, monster Minnesota Mosquitos in the sky,” he would later sing as he strummed his banjo. Jack played on and I sat entranced as he entertained the crowd with his ability to play the jaw harp, nose ﬂute, and his way of creating unique rhythms on the lid of an old toy box covered in sandpaper. Soon enough, my dad scooped me up into his arms and took me and Aubrey back to Lakeside Lodge to tuck us in under peach and blue checkered bedspreads with kisses and prayers.
Elementary Confidence – July 1997
As the sun slowly crept through the giant curtain blocking the sliding glass doors, my mom nudged us awake and made sure we were properly dressed in the outfits she had picked out for us the night before. I awoke with excitement at what this day at camp would hold. On my way to breakfast, I held my mom’s hand and balanced my way along the stone garden wall, just like a gymnast would glide along a balance beam. I had to keep my skills fresh I was going to take gymnastics with Miss Patty at the jazzercise soon. As we entered the Dining Hall, the familiar clatter of silverware and conversations entered my ears and the smell of bacon and French toast greeted my nostrils. I jumped with excitement at I saw the faces of Papa and Grandma sitting next to Aunt Mindy and uncle Steve. A waitress came by and poured hot chocolate straight into my cup from a golden carafe. I stared in amazement at the yummy drink I was about to consume.
After breakfast Mom walked me down to Day Camp: the magical land of crafts, skits, and counselors with funny names. There I spotted my cousin Amy and we found our way to the lanyard window. I had watched my older cousin Sara make lanyards before and now it was my turn. I confidently walked up to the counselor sitting on the other side of the opening and carefully selected strands that would make up my very first lanyard. I reached into my plastic name tag to retrieve the two quarters Mom had given me earlier and successfully completed the transaction. Once lunch time rolled around, I bounced my way to the dining hall, trails of green and blue dangling out of my pocket.
Free Flying – July 1999
I ran into Lakeside 636 and plopped my suitcase down on the small bed behind the accordion door. It was all mine! Aubrey could take the other bed. Noel and Caleb would just have to share the pullout couch. That’s the way it was every year; why mess with tradition? Soon enough, the Howards arrived and we piled into their room, grabbing a few red vines out of the enormous tub Aunt Mindy faithfully brought every summer. I caught the eye of Jessica and Amy and we descended the many stairs of Lakeside Lodge to find our way to the playground. As I slid down the rusty metal slide, Amy made it clear that she and Aubrey were going to be buddies this week and that meant I had to be buddies with Jessica. Distraught about Amy’s idea, I ran back to find my mom’s consolation. “She’s ruining Mount Hermon!” I muttered between sobs. For some reason my mom wasn’t very concerned.
The week involved our typical shenanigans: Day Camp, creek walking, Dad’s Big Splash over at the pool, S’mores on the Rec Field, Victory Circle with Jack Pearson, and late night family gatherings in Papa and Grandma’s room. But nothing compared to the wonder of the secret swing. Suspended from two Redwood giants, this swing was arguably one of the best Mount Hermon inventions of all time. After making sure I was tightly buckled in, my dad would pull me back only to leave me ﬂying through the open forest air like an eagle. The afternoon was inevitably ﬁlled with giggles and shouts of “Do it again! Again, again!”
Pancake Ridge – Summer 2001
My dad tapped me on the shoulder and I rose out of bed quietly and fumbled around in the darkness of our room. I slipped on my yellow and navy jacket with the M on the front and brushed some off the tangles out of my hair. Could it already be Tuesday? Mount Hermon somehow seemed to zoom by faster and faster every summer. Once Dad gave me the signal, we snuck out of our room and began the ascent. We were going to be the first to reach Pancake Ridge.
“You know Megan, you’re really good at keeping secrets. Mom and I told you ﬁve months ago and you still haven’t said a thing,” he mentioned as we passed the two story tree house. “Well, you told me I couldn’t,” I replied. I was generally pretty keen on obeying my parents and this was no exception. The road bent into a forest of Ponderosa pines and the conversation turned to the pancakes we were about to consume. “Do you really think we’ll be first?” I asked excitedly. “I’m pretty sure,” my dad confidently replied.
We climbed the hill of mulch and my fears receded as soon as I saw the table stacked high with trays and syrup containers — and not a single person in line. We piled our trays with pancakes the size of my face, strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream. We then sat and stuffed our stomachs, listening to Jack Pearson’s ﬁddle ﬁll the morning air. It was a moment I would remember years into the future – just Dad and me at Pancake Ridge.
Later that afternoon, Mom and Dad decided to tell Aubrey the news. They sat her down along the stone wall encircling the redwood grove in the middle of camp and alerted her of their plans for the family. “We’re moving? …to Colorado? But what about my friends?!” I watched from the bookstore window and saw my parents calming her down and wiping away her tears. She was far more shaken by the news than I had been ﬁve months earlier. This was going to be a new adventure and I wasn’t worried about any of the friends I would leave behind. We would both make new ones, obviously. At that point, I shrugged my shoulders walked away, determined to enjoy my last three days at Mount Hermon.
Middle School Mayhem – July 2003
“I don’t want to play anymore,” Amy whined and threw down her fan of playing cards. “Come on, Amy. You always win. Let me win for once!” I replied as Aunt Mindy scolded Amy for being a poor sport. A competitive spirit ran through Amy’s blood, so all of us cousins were forced to gang up on her whenever possible when we played games together at the Mount Hermon Fountain.
The Fountain was our new turf. White and forest green striped wallpaper, Coca Cola decor, and chairs that twirled back and forth invited us in daily for Marianne’s 1020 ice cream and our ﬁll of gummy worms. Instead of heading down to the pool or going creek walking, we spent many of our afternoons playing heated games of Nerts or Baloney Sandwich.
Jungle Princess – July 2005
Propelling myself up to reach the highest metal rung, I glanced at the forest around me and my sister down below. She looked like a teeny tiny speck from my perch seventy feet off the ground. I stepped off of my peg and wiggled around to catch my balance on the trembling wire beneath me. My hand found its way to the rope-vine bouncing up and down three feet away and I maneuvered myself from vine to vine with ease. This ropes course may have been difficult three years ago, but now I was five feet tall and was able to fly through the various ropes course elements fearlessly. Unlike my older cousins, I wasn’t afraid of heights. Sure, I may have been afraid of other things. Sometimes irrational fears kept me stirring in bed for hours on end. But here, up in the branches of the majestic redwoods, I was a fearless jungle princess, fully willing to welcome the next challenge at hand.
Coupled with my love of challenge was my love to challenge others. “Come on Dad!” I said for the sixth time as I brought a harness over to him. “You’re gonna love it. Put this on, now!” Surprisingly, he reluctantly harnessed up and walked over to the base of “The Leap of Faith.” Mom and I cheered him on as he made his ascent, rung by rung, to the perch eighty feet up a redwood tree. After a lengthy pause on the platform, he yelled down, “Don’t you at least have a trampoline for me to land on?”
I ﬁngered my way through the Young Adult section and leaned up against a shelf as I read about purity in Christian dating relationships. After I gleaned what I could from the book, I ventured over to the small music section and listened to a few songs through the headphones on the wall display. Then I opened up box after box of new leather ESV Bibles and ﬂipped through the pages as I thought of the well-worn Bible sitting on my nightstand in Lakeside Lodge. A few days later, after much consideration, I pulled The Pursuit of Godby A. W. Tozer off the shelf and purchased it at the register, excited to begin reading it on the ﬂight back to Colorado.
Grandma was sitting on her bed, crochet needle in hand. “Oh Megan, I’m glad you’re here. Do you remember how to create this stitch? I’m making some scarves to send to you for the homeless in Chicago.” Grandma had taught me how to crochet years ago, but my knowledge was fairly limited. “I’m not sure, Grandma, but I can try.” I stuck around for most of the afternoon, soaking up our time together. Papa sat in the corner reading a biography and would chime in from time to time. Mom came in at some point and chatted with us for a bit. We talked about life at Wheaton and Papa thought back on his Wheaton days when he and Grandma were ﬁrst married and lived above an ice cream shop near College Avenue. Grandma asked me where the homeless in Chicago slept and how I was liking my internship at Open Door that summer. Then as evening came, we headed down together to the dining hall for dinner.
Mount Hermon is in every way my second home. Sometimes I even like to think of it as my first home. It’s where my very first memories took place. It’s where I’ve grown closer to my mom and dad, my siblings, and my relatives. It’s also where we found God at work within me and others.
Over the many years of returning my childhood enchantment has waned, but it has been replaced with a deep appreciation of our time together. These days I’m far more aware of the pungent sewage smell in the air as I walk past Victory Circle. The giant swing was deemed “unsafe” and dismantled a few years back, in its place they built a ropes course for young kids. Pancake Ridge is just as delicious as I remember it — only now the entire Romberger clan hikes up together to be first in line. The fountain was recently redecorated to look like a beach shack, but we still congregate there late at night for heated games of Nerts or Rummy. The bookstore is the same as ever and I still appreciate strolling through the aisles and taking a look at the books despite my slight cynicism towards inspirational Christian books and t-shirts.
Year after year I still return to Victory Circle to sing songs around the campfire. Now I understand better than ever before why my dad loved this one song so much: