Tween Sessions! It’s Kind of Nice…

Girls sit in a circle with McLeod Lodge and the swim lake in the background.
Bag Supper is a perfect time to bond with cabinmates in a beautiful setting.

Tonight, I can write about how great the four week session is…back in the day (not so long ago), campers came for eight weeks, and there was only one session. There were no nightly posts, no pictures to reassure parents that a good time WAS really being had by all. In fact, digging through some old papers a few years back, I found a letter written by the camp director Kathryn Curtis to tell of an extended stay in the infirmary by one of her campers. Times have changed. Any trip to the Wishing Well these days of any concern is reported home by phone or email almost in real time. You may see your camper within minutes after we capture her smiling face at riflery. As you may be able to tell, I see telling the Illahee story as an opportunity…a privilege, and that’s why…no matter how late or how ready for bed, I always try to relay as much about our camp day as possible. So, I don’t yearn for the days when parents dropped their campers off for the entire summer without much more than a peep from camp. It’s fun for me to paint a picture of camp, and also for you to have a context from which to debrief the experience for those of you who have campers who come home somewhat tongue-tied. I do think that one eight week session could be kind of nice, but also would hate the task of telling all of those other Illahee girls that they can’t come to camp. Four weeks is plenty of time to really enjoy most of what camp has to offer. A girl can sign up for an activity like Horsemanship that meets over several activity periods, or take Trips Kayaking or Climbing (or Hiking), which is a day-long commitment every other day. She’ll still have time to enjoy in-camp activities without feeling like camp is too brief.

Today was the end of our Mini 1 session…about 75 girls on Hillbrook and Heigh Ho went home today after a two-week session. They were a happy crowd, and their parents were so excited to pick their campers up. With an 85% return rate (including attrition by aging out), the Mini sessions…in addition to our 5 day Junior session at the end of the summer…have the largest percentage of new girls and new parents to Illahee. This infusion of new blood brings lots of energy and enthusiasm with it, and the comfort level of the four-weekers (many of whom are long-termers) helps the Mini session girls settle right in. Many of these two-weekers will transition to the four week session to reunite with friends they first met in their Mini session.

The day started off a little on the challenging side. For those of you who are veterans of a number of Illahee openings, you know that I hate to see lines, and we are always working to avoid anyone having to be in one. The competitive spirit that I was saddled with makes me smile just a little when I hear parents exclaim how organized and quick we were. When we share openings with other camps, occasionally we’ll hear “we had to wait 45 minutes”! Almost as soon as a camper’s name and cabin number have left the confines of the car, a trunk or duffle is on the way. So, everything was going swimmingly this morning…I heard the blowers start up around 7:00 am. Mini Session trunks were left outside the cabins to be transported down to the loading area as soon as the girls went in to breakfast. Almost as soon as the morning grace was sung, I heard a loud POP!…and the power was off to the dining hall. I called Duke Power and reported the outage, and we went on with breakfast and trunk moving…a few minutes behind schedule. A credit to our staff, closing went without a hitch, and almost no one realized we were without power, unless they went into a bathroom and had to do their business by flashlight…welcome to camp! As it turns out, it was a squirrel who met his maker about the same time we heard the pop. Two more calls and Duke got there, well after the last camper was picked up. The harried contractor said that the storms west of us had necessitated Duke sending most crews to deal with outages near Franklin and Bryson City NC. We were his 9th outage, and 6th squirrel death today. Who knew?

Surrounding this “mini” closing, camp continued wide open with our 200 or so four weekers. Everyone seemed to enjoy the novelty of a little bit smaller camp. Between greeting parents, I helped our maintenance crew set up a generator so that we could get our kitchen folks lights and working convection ovens to bake a bundle of homemade pizzas. The power came back on before lunch, allowing us to get a start on the breakfast dishes, and to enjoy a smaller, quieter dining hall. The afternoon was fun. I got to most activities on main camp side, taking pictures at a slower pace and just hanging out and chatting. There is some cool stuff going on. I especially enjoyed Arts and Crafts, weaving, and ceramics. We have some adults leading these activities who are just really fine people…but also SO creative. Nancy , our sewing guru was helping girls make white squirrels and red cardinals. Nancy is a grandmom who is our neighbor and her passion is passing on her sewing skills. She has a group of local 4H girls who have been coming to her house since middle school…and are now in senior high. She also is one of the most thoughtful and sweetest people I have known. She regularly brings us treats all year long. Hollis  is our Arts and Crafts guru. Talk about creative…from making flowers out of soda cans, to bas relief cardboard sculptures, batiks, quilts…you name it, she can do it. She and I were talking about a possible renovation to the Arts and Crafts “Busy Bee.” One of our oldest buildings, it is probably due a facelift.

Tonight was bag supper. It is so fun to have a picnic outside on a warm summer’s eve. Sandwiches, chips, candy bars…milk. James Taylor always is the only music allowed. Laurie and I sat with Cabin 38, our most energetic group of Pineview girls and listened to “what ifs”…”what if we were both asleep and I got bitten by a black widow spider and was killed instantly? Would you cancel camp?” I love hearing girls who probably have a lot of adolescent pressures in their other lives…being completely silly. Their counselor, a former camper and first time staffer, is the perfect match…she just smiles, and says “now girls.” A voice of reason amidst the insanity 🙂

These are the days we’ll remember…

2 responses to “Tween Sessions! It’s Kind of Nice…

  1. What If?…. What if today was Freaky Friday – and when Gordon and Laurie wake tomorrow, all the moms are in the bunks, ready for yummy breakfast and a day filled with fun activities in the mountain air, and our daughters got to spend the day doing laundry, driving carpools of younger siblings and going to the grocery!! Is that a WHAT IF or an IF ONLY????? I’ll keep my fingers crossed when I go to sleep. Enjoy the weekend!

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