Some of my best childhood memories happened at summer camp. Whether it was YMCA Camp Manitowish in Wisconsin or Girl Scout Camp at the end of a dirt road in Alaska, the laughter of new friends, the heavy canoes and backpacks we struggled to carry on our scrawny tween bodies, the endless capture the flag games and the un-delicacy of canned meat blackened in a pan over a campfire will always be with me.
Last week I had the opportunity to relive all those memories and attend summer camp again with my daughter. The Girl Scout Day Camp she wanted to attend needed volunteers and when I found out there was a boys section for her little brothers to attend, I agreed. The other co-leader and I were assigned thirteen Brownies and our own site on a small peninsula near a lake where we set our pop-up canopies, tarps, coolers and hand washing station to make a cozy zone for crafts, songs and camaraderie.
Between map and compass treasure hunts, canoeing, fishing, pocket knife lessons, crafting and singing ‘repeat after me’ songs about donut shops, pirates and polar bears there were quieter opportunities to get to know the campers. Walking between activities I learned about the books they were reading, the baby cousins that were born recently, the dinner time antics from the previous before and their other summer plans. Just like adults, Brownies come in all personality flavors.
There was a Gretel-like Brownie who left so many items at various locations around camp it was like a breadcrumb trail connecting water bottle, sweatshirt, hat, bandanna and name tag.
There were several Adventure Brownies who were always pointing out birds, finding snails and spotting the biggest fish.
There was an Independent Brownie who, after listening to directions in every project, would always invent her own twist with pride.
There were several Brownies who needed a lot of frosting from adults, “Look, I glued these beads together. Look, I put a string through the beads. Did you see me? I glued beads together AND put a string through them!”
There were Singing Brownies who memorized words to songs faster than Thin Mints disappear from my freezer.
There was a Focused Brownie who tied and retied her square knot until the rope frayed and begged for mercy.
There were Brave Brownies who tried new things for the first time: fishing, canoeing, jumping off the dock and preparing and practicing a tribal dance to perform for the talent show. They even taste-tested unidentifiable nastiness in the gross food challenge by sampling monkey brains, monkey bits and washing it all down with monkey blood. I’m still trying to figure out what the bits were?!?
There were Factual Brownies, “Did you know that bird has 487 feathers? Even if it is cloudy, we can still get sunburned. All the ants we see are actually the females.”
There were Aerosol Brownies who would visit their backpacks every chance they found to surround themselves in an enormous cloud of spray SPF 50 and OFF.
Overall, we had an amazing week. The temperatures were great, the bug population was low, the fish were biting, the songs were sung and the SWAPS were swapped.
If you ever loved camp as a camper, I highly recommend returning as a volunteer, either at your childhood favorite or try a new camp near where you live now. It is a great way to relive those old memories and ensure a love of camp-life in the next generation.
Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
What is your favorite camp song?