Every summer, since I was thirteen, I have been invited by a friend of mine to stay in an 1881 mansion in the village of Elk Rapids for a week. I was invited far away from my home, and at that time a very ill and frail brother and parents who could not attend to me or my sister, forcing us to grow up and be independent, more independent than a child should be.
The house serves as a home to many troubled people in need of peace, it is home. I am not the only person who has stayed at the house, other girls my age were invited, I never met them prior to the first week I stayed at Chalfonte, we entered the week as strangers, and exited as best friends, as if we had known each other our entire lives.
I have returned every last week in June, waiting for the pleasures of my favorite sun kissed beach, crashing waves, lying in the hot sand, and my body being full of boundless happiness and energy. My mind and heart long for the happy memories I will carry with me for the rest of my life. In one short week each year for the past four years, I have made bonds with people I have never been able to make with the people I interact with in my hometown.
The short amount of time we’ve spent together forces us to make us get to know these people, because there is a strong desire to know them and for them to know you, your soul thirsts for that connection. I wanted to know them, to love them, to let them feel loved like they’ve never been loved before.
I leave every judgment made about me behind in Sterling Heights, the friends I’ve made embrace me, even for the things I’m afraid to show about myself. There is no fear of being too weird, a part of me I don’t usually show takes my body over and embraces my flaws, all the insecurities I had at home are gone, nobody else exists but them, nobody else matters, I am separated from my fears, from the society I dread facing because it desires me to conform along with the people who are submissive to it.
I go to Chalfonte every June. The first day I am back each year I feel home, I greet my friends with much enthusiasm, the first thing we do is try and tell each other what we have experienced in the past year and catch each other up on the changes that have been made in our lives.
We all eat dinner together, the kitchen is full of noise from the constant talking of the excited teenage girls, the loud exclamation of “THANK YOU JESUS!” before the meal is to be eaten, the clanging of dishes, and the feeling of bliss and contentment that has been absent from my life for the past year. The time after dinner is usually spent with more talking or playing euchre, spoons, or the exciting “Gangster”. I usually stay up late, talking to the friends I room with in hushed tones, attempting to suppress our contagious laughter, for fear of the staff who supervise us week to be woken up and chastise us for being up so late.
We talk about things most teenage girls talk about, but without the mask that has been used as a front to prevent people from seeing what is really behind it. We have discussed what our hometowns are like, our favorite books, movies, celebrities we plan to marry, our goals we’ve set for ourselves in life, the loved ones we’ve lost, the boys who are always on our minds and don’t know it, and how much we wished that we could see each other for longer than just one week a year. We also have talked about our friends back home, but they are not as close to us as the friends we’ve made at Chalfonte, they do not share that same bond, some friends back home treat us as though we’re disposable, others you try to be close to, but it is difficult.
This June shall be the fifth anniversary of going to Chalfonte with my friends. Not much has changed, except that as people grow older they move on, some people do not come back, and each year there are more girls invited to the house.
The things that has seemed to change the most are the people who come to the house. We used to be so insecure about ourselves, now we are stronger, we are confident with the people we have become. Although we may only be like this for a single week, we know that we can always return back to the house and who we have become in it.