I’m listening to two of my favorite camp sounds as I sit down at the end of a great camp day…the pitter patter of the tail end of a much-needed rain passing through, and the sound of screen doors slamming with the happy sounds of Pineview girls getting ready for bed. There is laughter, banter back and forth, the occasional shriek (usually instigated by a bug of some sort…spiders get the loudest)…all happy, carefree sounds. My summers have been filled with camp for much of my life…I never went to camp as a camper, but was “hired” much too young to be a Counselor in Training at a camp in Tennessee. I don’t ever remember a paycheck, and this camp could probably be a cautionary tale to directors everywhere, but it was there that I fell in love with this uniquely American institution.
It is not lost on me that the idea of a summer “reset” is a privilege that not everyone gets to experience. Before I went to this camp when I was about fifteen or so, I spent summers with my maternal grandparents in Siasconset, on the east end of Nantucket. This was back before the island got all “bougie,” which is probably a “bougie” thing to say. I remember carefree summers of trying to earn a few dollars by trimming roses off the roof of cottages, collecting mussels from the jetties and selling them at the fish markets, taking picnics with my grandparents to beaches…always Turkey sandwiches on Portuguese bread with Durkee sauce (maybe mayo and spicy mustard mix?) and cranberry sauce. During our Covid summer, after we did a quick pivot and did a leadership camp for older girls, Laurie and I took grandson Brooks to S’conset where he met a friend named George. They tooled around on bikes, we went fishing for Blues, and I had plenty of deja vus watching him experience the same magic I had so many years back.
There is something about the developing brain that soaks so much in. It is resilient, but it is so important to make things count at this a stage of the game. Sometimes I think about how girls put Illahee on a pedestal, and we are constantly looking for ways to make sure each knows that this Heavenly World can also be their own…even when they are not here.. I also know that these are formative years, and the more that each girl can take with them, whether newfound skills and confidence, friendships, or memories, the more resilient she will be when the inevitable challenges form like dark storm clouds on a summer’s night.
Which is what happened tonight. We had a beautiful day. We are in the swing of things. Any initial camp jitters have largely passed, and campers are “in” to their activities. Projects are underway, trips are headed out multiple times per day, and activities are well under way. The dining hall has been “en pointe,” from pancakes and sausage this morning to chicken quesadillas with homemade guac and black bean salad for dinner (turkey meatball subs for lunch).
Our original plan for evening program was Tournament Night, a new one that pairs kickball, dodgeball, pickle-ball tourneys. We were surprised with a pop-up quick rainstorm at the end of dinner, bringing much needed rain. Everyone was happy to head to the Rec Lodge and enjoy an impromptu talent show. As an alumnus of the Falling Creek Camp director team, I have been asked more than once, “what’s the difference between running a boy’s and girl’s camp”? Although it’s a little more complicated, I do know that evening programs are a lot less complicated at Illahee. If we need to pivot, a stage and a costume room can keep girls happy for hours if not days. With no preparation, we had a lively and fun evening with lots of gymnastics, singing…a recitation of states in one breath, a group Macarena, animal impersonations…good stuff.
Nothing says summer more than the Fourth! Many of you are making plans for your celebration. I will tell you that there is no better place to celebrate summer AND our independence than Illahee. So GET READY! We will have a blowout including world class fireworks (really), a huge game of Capture the Flag, and celebration that will be sure to check the “memory” category for your camper.
Our goal is to help you to build a resilient girl. A wealth of experiences, especially empowering and positive ones is the key to that. There are plenty more to come.