Monday, August 14, 2006

Anything Exciting Happen While I Was Gone?

Sheesh--leave for 10 days and all manner of excitement happens!

I volunteered to be a counselor at a Girl Scout camp DD#2 wanted to attend. Because I took so long to get her signed up, it was the only way I could get her in. And this was the last year she was eligible for the program she wanted to do. So I left Hubs home with DD#1 and DS#1 for ten days. The house is still standing, although the new washing machine had begun leaking and Hubs couldn't find the receipt to exchange it--because I had actually filed it. And there was no cell phone service at camp.

So I was one of four counselors (two 21+, two under 18) in a unit with 17 middle-school-aged girls. We had a couple of field trips and I drove, but I didn't turn on the car radio. And the girls didn't ask me to. Instead we talked about their lives and their families, what they were interested in and what they expected the coming school year to bring. We went sea-kayaking and watched otters break open clams and abalones against rocks on their chests. We saw harbor seals lazing in the sun. We saw lots and lots of brown pelicans, who have been moved from the "endangered" to the "threatened" species list.

We talked to women who were doing research in marine biology. We rode roller coasters. We checked out tide pools. They buried each other in the sand and dug holes deep enough to hit water. They wrote a song and a skit, all on their own. They made their own sandwiches, set tables, swept floors. We cooked outdoors and hiked up the hill to our unit at least twice a day (usually more). We made bracelets and did woodburning and silk-screening and tried our hand at archery and volleyball. They talked and giggled until I reminded them how early we were getting up in the morning. Some of them tried to push my buttons. Some rolled their eyes when asked to carry garbage down the hill or pick up trash. But since I wasn't "Mom," that didn't get far.

In a hurry-and-grow-up, overly commercialized, overly-sexualized world, these girls--my girls--got a chance to be kids again for a week. No boys. No cliques. No fashion. No mirrors. They saw grown women play. We wore silly glasses and sillier hats. We hid during the counselor hunt and tried to escape. We sang songs about mosquitoes and kissing banana slugs.

I came home exhausted.

DD#2 had a wonderful time. We were in the same program, but in different units. I didn't nag her about wearing her retainers. Okay, I did ask once or twice. She tried not to call me "Mom." I tried not to worry about her having a good time or if she made friends. I didn't worry about if she was dressing warmly or what she ate. She did tell me that the other kids thought I was either "cool" or "crazy," depending on what I had done 15 minutes before. She didn't seem too embarrassed.

Turns out she did have a good time. She learned some stuff about Monterey Bay that she didn't know. She made some friends. We found some activities that we think the other girls in the troop might enjoy.

And I learned, or was reminded of, some things about myself. Especially about my leadership style.

They want us back. There are programs at other camps that DD#2 wants to try and then we've got the GSUSA/BSA Berkeley-Sakai Exchange program next year, God and the International Community willing. So I don't know if we'll be able to participate. (It would be fun, though!)

The Camp Director made an interesting statement at the end of camp. She feels that if the world could just come to camp for a week, they would learn to live and to work together. They would learn that we are not so very different from one another. That music can make doing dishes fun. That communication is key and talking face-to-face is important.

A very simplistic view of the world, I know. But camp reminds us of the essential humaness of us all: we share the gift of ourselves and build special memories with each other. We expand our "tribe" and include people we wouldn't have met in our everyday lives.