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 each day, 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, despite the fact that we try to steer clear of the news here at camp, word has reached these older boys that there is a planned storming of Area 51 on the horizon. They will be preparing for that conspiracy busting adventure and the impending alien invasion.
The Axemen too are dealing with the inevitable invasion of aliens with their own day filled with scavenger hunts (you know for alien invasion clues), a kayak race (you know to chase down the hipster kayaking aliens), and an alien hunt (hunting down their alien counselors hide and seek style). But…sorry folks there will be no PHONE HOME for these boys!
For the Loggers, it is opposite day. They are all dressed in backwards and inside-out clothing and will be playing all sorts of classic camp games…only backwards. They will be playing basketball by shooting up through the hoop, playing soccer with only their hands, engaging in reverse trivia in which all answers are correct except for one, and turning the classic Capture the Flag into Return the Flag!
Finally, our Swamper Village will be enjoying Water Day. They will be dressing their counselors into whimsical sea creatures at the Art Shop. They will be balancing themselves on floatation devices to avoid falling into the sea. They will have a pail filling race. They will have a Free Willy ceremony in which they will be unceremoniously throwing their favorite staff members in the lake! And they will be earning sponges all day long to save the world from the rising seas…you know, the sponges will soak up all the water!
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 Animal House 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 80s 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…barbeque lunches at a park (all of the boys eat a barbeque lunch on Cruiser Day), family movies, topped off by carefree trips to the neighborhood ice cream shop. Well, given my children’s sports calendar and social schedule, and that the nearest Dairy Queen to our house in Boise is about five miles away in a strip mall, that family fantasy weekend became 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 pretend there is an alien invasion on the horizon, or play opposite day together, or save the world from the rising tides…with sponges. They can sit down with their families in the middle of the day at a beautiful park for a barbeque 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 (or at least wondering about) 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 Jersey Shore and Duck Dynasty with their kids. It will mean some changes around here, but for now Mayberry seems pretty good.
All is well in the North Woods….