Pilgrimage (Part 2)

[This is the last of a two-part post.]


Sometimes in my life I’ve felt an intuitive tug in a particular direction. This was one of those times.

“It may seem awkward,” the June 24, 1978, diary entry begins, “but I’m writing in this journal now in the backseat of Mom’s car, out somewhere on a dark road, making my own little ‘camp’ … the sky outside is strange—misty, stars above, and lightning.”

I tried to make the trip about Kim, but she wouldn’t be there. It couldn’t really be the place, as my last visit to Camp Koronis was hardly a pleasant memory. And Skeeze had backed out, so fate seemed to be saying I had to go it alone, and I had to go there.

And what about The Family Project? Ostensibly, I’d be checking up on my brother, so the parents probably thought having both kids away for a weekend wasn’t a half-bad idea. It may have bought them a romantic weekend. Being I’d just graduated, Dad may have also softened his stance post-drug bust given the fact I’d be heading to school in the fall. And at least I had a summer job.

So, summer of ’78, I was the Koronis mystery man—the Outsider—the unregistered camper. Instead of setting up the tent, I decided to sleep in the car. While the other kids ate not far from the Tabernacle Hall (pictured above), I dined at an A&W in Paynesville. After supper I joined the other campers for skits and chapel service. It was then I met Jill Paradis (pictured at right), a lovely brunette from Marshall, Minn.JillP78

We bonded immediately.

So, we sat together during an evening sing-along, after which we walked back to the main hall where she was staying. There we kissed goodnight. It all happened so fast I couldn’t believe it. Later I drove back to the lakeside road where I’d parked the night before and tried to sleep in the backseat—with lightning flashing, thunder booming and rain pounding the car roof outside, and thoughts of Jill knocking about my head.

On Sunday, June 25, I awoke and drove into Paynesville, eating at a café called Little Tuck’s. Pulling into camp again around 8 a.m., I joined the other campers for breakfast and morning chapel. “Jill looked very beautiful,” I later wrote. While it rained occasionally, the sun came out and, before everyone packed up to leave for home, we hung out on the sidewalk, listening to Jay Ely’s Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles’ Hotel California cassettes.

I didn’t want to leave Jill so soon after we’d just met, but we agreed to stay in touch. Her family arrived in a Winnebago around 2:30, so she spent time with them. As other kids were leaving, our small group “marched up to Ely’s grandparents’ cabin and sat outside and ate cookie bars and drank Kool-Aid.” Just a few scant moments with Jill on the dorm porch (where I took the above photo), a quick kiss, and I helped her bring her bags out to her parents’ camper. “We said goodbye too many times,” the diary states. “We will write and maybe see each other again.”

After she left, I went to the dining hall, plunked down at the piano and improvised a song. With a full heart, I closed my eyes and just let it come to me—a hopeful song, about better days ahead.

“Big, empty, green Koronis,” the entry concludes. “I left a piano and a song.”

~ by completelyinthedark on April 5, 2013.

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