As I mentioned during the first session in one of these updates, for the first week of any session at camp it is important that we work hard to establish a structure, a routine and a predictability to our lives here. Projects are at the same time, cabin cleanup is at the same time, meals are at the same time. Life is predictable….steady. For boys arriving for the first time (and even for some returners) this predictability is what allows them to settle in and feel comfortable here. It is something they can understand and count on….safe.
But today we have had our fill of predictability and it is time to throw in a heavy dose of unpredictability. Today is our first Cruiser Day of the session. All of our normal activity sessions are cancelled and each village has a special themed program for the day. In the Lumberjack Village, they have broken out their nice duds, most recently worn at the social (and no less wrinkled), and are engaging in Country Club Day. A golf course has been set up around camp and tee times began at 10:30. This will be followed up with games of badminton and fencing competitions (trying to knock each other off of windsurfing boards with a padded stick…..15 year olds….). This admittedly, tongue in cheek theme, has all of the boys fired up in the very false hope that we will be showing them Caddyshack tonight…..they are going to be sorely disappointed!
The Axemen are playing a giant game of Human Risk. Physical challenges throughout the day will earn the boys armies to be placed on the big game board later in the afternoon. The boys are no doubt very excited for the event, which, if you know anything about Risk, should be concluding right around the time the busses pull out to take the boys home on August 11th!
For the Loggers, it is Carnival Day with a legitimate old school carnival feel. The boys have all sorts of games and contests in which to participate – mock horse racing, cribbage, knock over the milk jugs with a tennis ball, bowling, a version of ring toss, roof ball, and guessing the number of Skittles in a jar. And, of course, our Bearded Lady booth is occupied by one of our 17 year old counselors who can grow less facial hair than virtually any woman I know! As is requisite at any carnival, there are also treats, including an old school popcorn popper that uses that radioactive looking orange/yellow goop to make the popcorn taste so heavenly. Come on, admit it, you know it is terrible for you but somehow irresistible. Err….I mean we used purely organic olive oil to make the popcorn….and it tasted….um…..organic.
Finally, our Swamper village will be enjoying Pokemon day…..but I have to admit, beyond the name, I don’t really understand! I just know there are lots of colorfully dressed counselors spinning around in circles a lot and casting spells at each other to the uncontrollable gleeful shrieks of 9 and 10 year olds….
And then, of course, everyone will head down into the village of Lake Nebagamon for a Dairy Queen treat. And what better way to cap off a family day than a walk into town to the Dairy Queen followed by a family movie after dinner. (Stress on FAMILY….thus Caddyshack was shot down in short order! Plus….anyone who has seen it recently would have to admit it doesn’t really hold up anymore. Sorry early 80’s folks…..I call ‘em like I see ‘em.)
The way that Cruiser Day is structured is, I suppose, sort of like the way I, as a parent, fantasized that weekends would be with our family before reality settled in. The dream went like this. On Friday evenings we would all sit down together with the world as our oyster and plan out the most exciting family days imaginable for the weekend. (Unless, of course, the Bears were playing, in which case a seminar in football appreciation would be our sole activity on Sunday.) The weekend would be filled with fun activities for the entire family that challenged us, made us laugh, and most of all created memories. That was the fantasy…perfect family weekends filled with perfect activities…picnic lunches (all of the boys eat a picnic lunch on Cruiser Day), family movies, topped off by carefree trips to the neighborhood ice cream shop. Well, given that I work seven days a week all summer, and that the nearest Dairy Queen to our house in Boise is about five miles away in a strip mall, that family fantasy weekend seems about as likely on a regular basis as getting my kids to eat an oyster!
I was struck today by how fortunate these guys are at camp. Here they get to live that fantasy Mayberry life that seems so unrealistic these days. (Please tell me that the Mayberry reference makes sense….that I am not so old that our parent body no longer shares the experience with me of being home from school on a sick day with nothing to watch but Andy Griffith, Petticoat Junction, and Love American Style!) The campers can grab their best friends and play a giant board game, or play carnival games, or pretend they are highfalutin country clubbers (who like to whack each other with padded sticks), or make up games about weird little anime characters (I still don’t understand). They can sit down with their families in the middle of the day for a picnic lunch. And then they can, as a family, take a late afternoon or evening walk into town to the retro Dairy Queen, with the walk up window and the ancient neon sign, to get an ice cream cone, sit on a park bench, and plan the next day. Pretty great stuff….
I know I have spoken about this idea before in these updates, but perhaps camp is Mayberry. Perhaps that is why this generation sends us their kids. They grew up watching Mayberry and wishing that for themselves…and if not for themselves, for their kids. (While I am certainly as funny as Barney Fife, I am not nearly as good looking!) Now certainly, one could argue that Mayberry never actually did exist in the real world, but I think we can all acknowledge that it does exist in our consciousness as an idea…an idea that we would love to offer, even if just for a month or two, to our children. Now, I admit, I am a little worried about what camp will look like after this generation grows up and is looking to share the neighborhood of The Real World and Big Brother with their kids. It will mean some changes around here, but for now Mayberry seems pretty good.
All is well in the North Woods….