Camp in your soul

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At camp our campers all have cabin chores. Some of them are easy and some are difficult. One of them is called being the “Stupie”. BT legend has is that Stupie is the Norwegian word for waiter. This, of course is not true, but the kids love silly words and it has stuck here at camp. The cabin Stupies are responsible for setting the table, bringing the food to the table and clearing the table at the end of the meal. The campers take turns being the Stupie and it can be a tough (and messy) job.

Setting the table and bringing the food to the table are the easy parts. The tough part is when you take the plates from everyone on the table and return them to the dirty dish window. The most popular technique is to stack all the plates and have the leftovers on the top plate. Then you scrape the leftovers into the garbage bin and put the plates onto the dish racks where our kitchen staff transfer them into the dishwashing machines. It’s quite a process and during the clean up rush there can be a little line of people waiting to get to the dish window.   Tonight at dinner I was clearing the plates from my table and I had the most incredible moment in the “Stupie line”. One of our lower, lower Maples (age 7) was in the Stupie line next to me and we started talking. She was carrying a stack of 10 plates and she was acting like a pro.

She carried the plates with one hand on the bottom and one on the side, took off the top plate and banged it against the inside of the garbage can letting the leftovers fall into the trash can without having to touch the top of the plate. She then stood up on her tip toes and placed each plate into the dish rack. I stood back watching and then took a moment to talk with her after. I asked her if she did the dishes or cleared the table at home, she said no; camp was the first time she had done this. We talked about how she learned how to Stupie from her counselors and how she learned the advance techniques by watching other campers. I asked her if she was going to stupie when she went home and she was quite undecided about that.

I love these moments at camp, moments where I get to see our campers growing, learning and stepping outside of their regular comfort zone. Today at Prime Time we had village sporting events where campers from different cabins and different friendship groups were playing games, sharing stories and making new friendships.

It was so great to see these interactions and to witness the beginnings of a summer full of memories for our campers.

Our environment at Birch Trail is based on supporting our campers through challenges. Sure we praise our campers, but what we really do is encourage them. We encourage them during the tough times and during the happy times. We help them to feel comfortable in their new home and to feel safe both physically and emotionally. Once that happens they are able to achieve things they previously believed were out of their reach. I really believe that it’s this environment at Birch Trail that makes camp their special place.

This feeling is what one of our camp parents and I talked about over visiting weekend. She was a camper at Birch Trail and her two daughters’ are both Birch Trail campers (one is here now and one was in TM last summer). She has enjoyed reading all the guest blogs this summer and I asked her to write about her experience. Here is her piece:

 

Question: How do you move on from camp?

Answer: You don’t.

 

Some people just have camp in their soul. Some are born with it, grew up with it, have always done it. Some have acquired it through their spouse, friend or child. At any rate, if your daughter is at Birchtrail and you are reading this blog, you have it in your soul, too.

 

After my wonderful weekend at camp visiting my 13-year-old 5-year camper, I reflected back on my very mixed emotions during the annual “running with the bulls”. This is what I call the super exciting few minutes when the parents are waiting outside the BT gates and at 9:32 you can see the girls start to run towards the gate. The gate opens and the parents all run to see their daughters. It sounds sort of silly, but it is a great feeling!!!! This year, as I inched my way to the front of the line to run up the long driveway to see my daughter, it was bitter sweet because only one of them is at camp this summer. It’s been a family thing, as I, myself, am a Birchtrail alum. My older daughter was TM 2014 last year, so this summer is her “gap year”, “skip year”, or whatever the new term is for girls that end their time as campers before they decide what else to do with their lives.

 

Planning this summer for my oldest daughter, Rachel, was a challenge. We planned a few things for her to do with a leadership workshop, pre-college design workshop…yada, yada, yada. It’s not camp. Period. After my upper Linden daughter, Sara, was gone for the first week of camp, Rachel comes to me in tears, “Mom, we can’t move on from camp.” She is, of course, speaking of her friends of whom she talks to, texts and face-times with a million times a day. So far this summer, not being at camp, she has already seen at least 6 BT friends. Everything Rachel has done or is planning to do involves a friend from Birch Trail. It’s just the way her life is. It is in her soul.

 

It is hard to see Rachel out of sorts this summer not being at camp. On the 4th of July, she asks, “What do normal people do on 4th of July?”. (She was completely serious by the way!). I didn’t have a good answer for her. Pool and fireworks? It seems so lame in comparison to all her years at camp. Will she go back to Birch Trail to be a counselor? A very popular question that been asked of me a million times. The answer is: I hope so! As she stalks the online photos for people she knows, counselors she misses, younger campers she supervised when she was a CIT, projects, etc. She loves it all!!!! It is in her soul.

 

As Sara is enjoying her best summer yet at camp, even without her big sister there, I can see how she has grown and matured as a camper and person. Sara spends 10 months a year planning, talking about and longing for these 2 months in Wisconsin. It was clear this weekend she is right where she is supposed to be.  It is in her soul.

 

When I brought Sara back to camp on Sunday there were several other parents/families that we have gotten to know very well over the years as our daughters have become close friends. Two of us moms were walking around the Linden village with our daughters and we knew our other mom friend was dropping her daughter off and leaving very soon. I hear behind me, “Cindy!!!!!”. I turn around and all three of us ran towards each other. The “Running of the Bulls”….Mom-style!!! The three of us hugged for a long time, tearing up and telling each other how much we loved each other and each other’s daughters.  We are all middle aged and have not moved on from camp. Two of us are BT alums, and our third friend acquired it from her spouse and daughters…but the result is the same. It is in our souls.

 

Happy Trails!

Cindy Taylor

Daughter: Sara Abreu (Upper Linden 2014) and Rachel Abreu (TM 2014)

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