All humility aside, the way that our final few days of camp are scheduled is really perfect. It all began Monday night when we were visited by the royal leader of the Yo-Yo Islands (a great vacation spot by the way…though it’s geography is a bit murky. It was described to us last night as located north and south, it’s warm and cold, and an island in fresh water…I can’t figure it out!), A.K. Agikamik. A.K. was a roommate of Muggs Lorber (Nebagamon’s founder) 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. Mr. Agikamik always likes to hear about the outrageous happenings at camp throughout the summer. And…outrageous it was! Ask your kids about it…words cannot do it justice…enough said! We followed up this silliness with a slideshow featuring images from throughout the session. 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 images set to music to create nostalgic feelings and cause one to reflect. Great stuff. (Don’t worry…we will post the slideshow in a few days for you to check it out)
Then yesterday we all participated in the final Sunday Service of the year. 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 explore the many chapters of this book. From the moments during the summer that made us laugh hardest, to our favorite meals, to our favorite special spots in camp, to the moments that made each of us most proud throughout the summer, everyone is 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 prepare to write the final few pages of our books.
And last night was the Follies, the final talent show of the year. Many of the boys saved some of their best acts for this final show and, as always, it was a wonderful combination of genuine talent, absurd comedy, and plain old fun. After the talent show, we all shared one final extended sing along. We sung all of our loud and raucous favorites and I endured one final humiliation as I led Itsy Bitsy Spider one more time. The final sing along always has a different feel to it. The Council Fire Ring was 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…and yet….it for sure was. There was an urgency and almost reckless quality to the singing. EVERYONE was totally into it and put 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 was indeed the last time that they would be singing these songs together for quite some time. For our oldest campers, it is clear that they understood 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 made the most of it. We wrapped it up by singing three special camp songs that have been sung at the conclusion of talent shows for years. The boys stood up, removed their hats, threw their arms over each others’ shoulders, and sung beautifully….some fighting back tears…and some giving in to them completely.
Today is packing day….YUCK! As I write this, the boys are throwing 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. You are as celebrated here for smashing a home run as you are for knowing how to make home fries. You are as vaunted here for throwing a football skillfully as you are for throwing a pot skillfully. You are as acknowledged here for shooting a three pointer as you are for shooting a bullseye.
And then…tonight our Final Council Fire becomes a reality that none of us really wants to face. The final Council Fire is the only one of the summer that is not presented by a staff member. This last Council Fire is presented by our tenth grade campers on their final night as campers at Nebagamon. Needless to say, the tenth grade campers will be overflowing with emotion. 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 cherish 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. Our Keylogs will also be rife with emotion. Dry eyes will be the exception tonight, no doubt about it. I always make a point to tell everyone on this night that if they are feeling sad and struggling with the fact that they are leaving tomorrow…that 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, that is 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 tonight…because it means I did it right.
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. It has been a great summer thanks to each of them…and thanks to you.
Take good care of my boys during the off season…
All is well in the North Woods…