The truth is that the brilliant people who established the schedule for the last week of camp knew just how to do it. During these last few days, we are taken on journeys of hilarity, reflection, camaraderie, melancholy, and jubilance. The camp experience in a nutshell.
It all began last night, we were visited by the royal leader of the Yo-Yo Islands, A.K. Agikamik. His majesty was a roommate of Muggs Lorber at Indiana University in the 1920’s, and he has magnanimously maintained ties with Nebagamon ever since. It is always quite a treat when legitimate (or illegitimate) royalty comes to grace us. A.K. Agikamik always likes to hear about the outrageous happenings at camp throughout the summer. There were some great stories and the eccentric nature of the over 115 year old monarch is always side-splitting.
Our grand wrap up tour continued this morning with our final Sunday Service (yes, I know today is a Thursday, but, as I have written, sometimes camp is about the suspension of disbelief!). The final Sunday Service is a group effort in which we all view our summers as a book that has been written throughout the summer. As a camp family, we explored the many chapters of this book: the moments during the summer that made us laugh hardest, our favorite meals, our favorite special events, and the moments that made each of us most proud. Everyone was eager to share their thoughts. It was a great hour of reflection for all of us, and really crystallized each of our summers as we prepared to write the final few pages of our books.
Today, our final full day of regular(ish) camp is absolutely packed. Nobody has a free minute as every single second is booked (and usually double booked) with some special event. Whether it be a special a ninth grade versus staff speedball game, our celebratory art show, cabin clean-up rewards, or any other of many other special activities, no one has a minute to do anything but camp, camp, camp! (I say this as a means to help you understand how much fun the last few days of camp are, and also as an apology for the fact that your boys will be returning home exhausted from so much action.)
Tonight will be the Follies. The Follies includes a Countdown activity in which we, as a camp family, get to notice and recognize the longevity of folks here at camp. What is really cool about the event is that while we absolutely appreciate the folks that have been here the longest, the loudest cheer is usually delivered when the folks that came to camp for the first summer this year are recognized. We all realize that as important as tradition is to this institution, the infusion of new energy and new ideas is just as critical. After the Countdown, we will share one final extended sing along. We will sing all of our loud and raucous favorites. It is always fun and is also always different from other sing-alongs. The Rec Hall will be louder, more intense, and even more alive than normal during our singing. If you have read my descriptions about the post talent show singing in the past, you may be wondering if it is even possible to have the singing be more intense than usual, but experience tells me that, without a doubt, it will be. There is always an urgency and almost reckless quality to the singing during the final Follies. EVERYONE puts all of their energy into the songs. You certainly get the sense that, for some of the folks out there, there is an understanding that this is indeed the last time that they will be singing these songs together for quite some time. For our oldest campers, it is clear that they understand that this might be the last time that they ever get a chance to put aside their inhibitions and sing profoundly childish songs with their best friends on the planet…and they will doubtless make the most of it. The silly singing will be followed up by a slideshow featuring photos from the summer. The slides are set to music that has meaning from earlier events in the summer. I have to say, there are few things as effective as photographs set to music to create nostalgic feelings and cause one to reflect. Great stuff. The Follies will be wrapped up by singing three special camp songs that have been sung at the conclusion of talent shows for years. The boys will stand up, remove their hats, throw their arms over each others’ shoulders, and sing beautifully.
Tomorrow will be packing day….YUCK! The boys will throw together all of their belongings (well…hopefully all of them) for their trips home. It is always a tough day. Emotion runs high and no one really enjoys it.
The afternoon will be dedicated to our final awards ceremony. Boys will be recognized for all sorts of accomplishments. Some awards will go to athletes, some to artists, some to wilderness tripping aficionados, some to excellent naturalists, some to accomplished sailors…and the list goes on…and on…and on (yes, it is a LONG Awards Ceremony!). This event has a terrific message about what really matters at camp. That message is that everything matters. It does not matter who you are, what your interests are, or what your previously acquired talents are, we appreciate you and you can make an impact here at camp.
And then, tomorrow night will be the final Council Fire…the Ninth and Tenth Grade Council Fire. Without a doubt, it is a night that has been lurking in the backs of the minds of our oldest boys throughout the summer. No, in truth, I think that most campers that have ever been at camp for one of these oldest boy Council Fires have been, at least in some ways, thinking about the night that looms for them in their final few hours of camperhood. For the ninth and tenth graders, their keen understanding of the fact that their camper years are over fills them with a need to communicate their feelings to the rest of camp. To make SOME attempt to share with the rest of the camp family what this experience has meant to them and how the younger campers should relish their time here. The resounding message every year is that it goes too quickly…way too quickly. They are right. Year in and year out, they are right…it goes way too quickly. Needless to say, it is a huge deal for these boys.
Truth be told, it is a huge deal for us as well. Among these young men are boys that we met when they were eight years old and came into camp as completely clueless Swampers. We have watched, no that is not the right word, we have shared in their trials and tribulations, and successes and failures as they have matured. We watched these boys take their very first swim tests. We watched as they ventured off onto their very first trips. We worked with them when they made the all-too predictable errors in judgment that all boys make. We worked with them as they found ways to be accountable for these errors and come back into the fold wiser, more responsible, and ready to make their next errors! We admired them as they matured into the leaders of our camp. Leaders full of humor, role modeling expertise, love for camp, and love for each other. We knew them when……
Our Keylogs tomorrow night will also be rife with emotion. Dry eyes will be the exception, no doubt about it. I always make a point of telling everyone on this night that if they are feeling sad and struggling with the fact that they are leaving tomorrow, they have done it right. They are to be congratulated for their sadness. It means they came to camp and gave themselves to the experience and let people in, found new brothers, and connected. They should be sad. We all should be.
Now to be clear, I am a person that avoids tear-jerker movies at all costs. I absolutely despise that feeling that a sad film creates in me. I don’t like to be sad, except for that one night a year when I welcome in sadness like an old friend. I enjoy it just this one night. I am looking forward to that sadness tomorrow night…because it will make it clear to me that…I did it right.
This will be my final update this year. For those of you that have been readers of these updates throughout the summer….thank you. Thank you for having the patience to read through my wordy missives. Thank you for finding the time to stay connected to camp. And most of all, thanks to most of you for having the faith, trust and selflessness to share your children with us for the summer. We understand what an enormous thing it is to entrust your child into the care of others. And we are truly humbled by that trust. It has been a great summer thanks to each of those boys…and thanks to you.
Take good care of my boys during the off season…
All is well in the North Woods…