On Friday, we celebrated the All Camp Birthday. This is a chance to celebrate everyone’s birthday, even those of us who do not have birthdays during the summer. The genesis of the event at camp goes back to WWII when sugar rationing was in place and Muggs was forced to have just one birthday celebration rather than individual celebrations for the boys who had birthdays at camp. While we have always celebrated the All Camp Birthday, this year we decided to up the ante and host a really grand event. We started with a giant all-camp barbeque (tri-tip steak, soda can chicken, corn on the cob, crazy slaw, vermicelli salad, and of course, giant birthday cakes). The seating for the event was by birth month. Everyone enjoyed the chance to sit with different people than they normally do and converse with surprise birthday buddies! There was a great, giant, community picnic feel to the meal.
And then the party started. A classic outdoor birthday party reminiscent of…childhood. We had a water balloon catapult, in which water balloons were launched from a giant slingshot and the brave throngs attempted to maneuver themselves under it for the catch…they got wet. There were balloon stomping contests in which the boys had balloons tied to their ankles and attempted to stomp the balloons of the other boys…they got sweaty. There was a whipped cream pie eating contest for those that hadn’t had their fill of sugar with the birthday cakes…they got sticky. We had a “Slip and Slime” where the boys could hurdle themselves at top speeds down a 30 foot tarp covered in our homemade pink slime…they got slimy. There was a “dunk tank” where boys would throw bean bags at a target that, when hit, would release VERY COLD water balloons on whichever administrator happened to be the sacrificial authority figure of the moment. Some administrators would heckle the boys in an attempt to distract them and affect their accuracy. It didn’t work. I took a different approach when I was in the chair trying to appeal to the boys’ better angels and begging them to show me some mercy. It didn’t work. They responded with complaints about all of the sugar I deny them during the summer, and other grievances about my regime, and then hurled with deadly accuracy…I got wet (and freezing!!). The event was a great success. A great celebration of each of our birthdays…and just plain old wet, messy, slimy fun!
This morning we all were moved by a particularly poignant Sunday Service delivered by a woman that has been associated with camp for nearly 30 years, and has been working in our office for the past four years. Her topic was loving yourself just the way you are. Born with a birth defect that resulted in her only having nine fingers and a right arm that is significantly shorter than her left one, she spoke of the various challenges that she has faced throughout her life. From choosing a musical instrument as a child to play in school (she turned into a great French Horn player), to becoming a high school athlete (she became a decorated high school diver), to the various unkindnesses that people sent her way, she shared with us the underlying and buoying belief, that she has always been able to muster, that she is terrific just the way she is. Here at camp, this is one of the ideals of which we are most conscientious and deliberate about. We try very hard to create a place and a community in which people can both explore and come to love whomever they are. And our speaker today did a wonderful job of really bringing that home to all of us. Having delivered this powerful message, as her service concluded, she admitted to all of us that despite her powerful belief in self-acceptance, she has never been able to bring herself to wear short sleeves in public. No matter the heat, no matter the situation, she could just never bring herself to bare her arms in public for fear of rejection. But camp is a special place, where we feel free and are accepted in truly unique ways. So, when she reached the end of her Sunday Service, just before she asked the choir to sing their final song, she tossed off her white cardigan and danced along with the song…in short sleeves.
All is well in the North Woods….