North Bay, on the beach. Copyright TaraKA & the Tara Chronicles, 2016.
When we arrived back at camp on day 3, already there was a humid haze hanging over camp. This morning’s breakfast selection included pancakes, and cereal. Pancakes are unkind to the blood sugars, but I decided to dismiss my worries over V’s diet this week. I drank more coffee than necessary – in fact, I was drinking coffee like water at every meal – and tried to focus on the conversation around me, which had become very difficult to do.
I forgot to mention that on day 2 a group of young men from a Washington, DC high school arrived around lunchtime. Their lessons didn’t impinge upon us in any way over the following days; however, they shared mealtimes with us, and they were anything but quiet, controlled, or courteous. This became a source of controversy and discussion by the last day.
The first lesson of the day was named, ACTION, which implies exactly that. The girls’ Action was beach cleanup. Our counselor told them they could wear “water shoes” but I told Veruca that she didn’t need to go into the water for this task. After some brief instructions, the girls set out over the beach to collect garbage and debris, which they brought back to our counselor to categorize and record.
I took my post under Rogue’s Pier, in the shade. Hey, I’m over 40 and this heat wanted to kill me. It was already 92 degrees at 9 a.m. and the light breeze could only be appreciated in the shade. I released any guilt I might have had by justifying that I could be of no help to Veruca if she went low, if I passed out from heat exhaustion.
The girls wandered the beach collecting things that had washed up from the bay, and miscellaneous trash, for what felt like an hour. V got her sneakers soaked. When they took a break to change shoes in the cabin, I walked back to the car to retrieve her extra pair and damn near stepped on a black snake sunning itself on the driveway. It was one of those moments where I picked up to a jog and noticed something long and black in front of me and didn’t realize what it was until I was on top of it. Its shiny little black head with its beady little eyes looking up at me like, go ahead and step on me, bitch.
Lunchtime, again shared with DC Boys. I forget what we ate. It’s all a blur now and, quite possibly, blocked out. (Side note: I just asked V if she remembered what we ate and she said no, and that she didn’t want to remember.) I can’t believe I didn’t lose weight on this adventure, because I barely ate anything other than the salad that was served at every meal. And because – sweating. There was a napkin-eating contest on the stage. The volunteers had the corner of a paper napkin in their mouth, and had to pull the whole thing in without touching it. The first one to get the whole napkin in his mouth won. This got the attention of DC Boys, who were riveted by the action and hysterical. It was the first – and only – time it felt like we were all in the same cafeteria.
After lunch was Lesson 2: “Food D lesson.” Our group retired to the classroom inside the dining hall, where they learned about food waste and weighed the food from lunch to be composted/thrown away. There followed a nice humid hike through the woods in search of paw paw fruit, that fruit made famous by Baloo in the Jungle Book. My mind drifted to that refreshing shower I was going to sneak in between dropping Opac and driving back.
My fellow chaperone-mom recounted the fallout from news of the DC Boys sharing our camp. Apparently the girls in her side of our cabin (roughly, 8 girls on each side), when they called home last night, mentioned these boys. One of the parents demanded to speak to her and badgered her with questions about who they were, where they were, whether the girls’ cabin was locked at night, etc. She told the parent to call the administrative office, and apparently our assistant principal was now involved. I so love juicy gossip! I wish I knew how that phone call ended.
It made sense that only one school should be there at a time. But the insinuation that these boys were somehow dangerous to our kids pissed me off. The only criticism I had, was that they ate with us. I think it was very poor management to place our two very different dynamics in the dining hall at the same time. Because they were talking loudly and simultaneously with the counselor on stage who was leading our kids. And NO ONE did a damn thing about it. Not the North Bay counselors, and especially not the boys’ chaperones – who, for what it’s worth, looked like retired linebackers, walking around looking like somebody hit their momma. The whole situation just seemed so rude, and it had everybody talking about it. Actually, amend that: the only criticism I had was for the adults who didn’t manage the situation properly.
The rest of the afternoon played out mostly indoors. It was just too hot. The girls didn’t want to be outside anymore, so they hung out in the cabin. I left to pick Opac up and take him home from practice again, leaving V with the very capable people at camp.
By some miracle, I made it back in time for dinner. They were resurfacing the main road all week and traffic in Northeast was miles long. Dinner was pizza and buffalo chicken, with salad. Best meal yet. This last dinner included shout-outs – each of the kids was invited to write down a shout-out and place in the box on stage, to be read during dinner. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear any of it (see above).
As a continuation of the earlier food lesson, where they also set the tables for dinner, the girls were on cleanup duty in the dining hall. They finished in record time and were allowed to go to the gym until North Bay Live started. The gym is the only building without air conditioning, but no one seemed to care on this last night. We hung out there until called to line up outside the theater for the show.
Evening, and North Bay Live!
The kids were all pumped for the last episode of Toobie. Toobie turned out to be a good friend who stopped his friend from punching someone out and getting arrested and ruining his life. Everybody cheered. There was a lot of talk from the counselors, reminding kids why bullying hurts everyone, and how important it is to be a good friend, to accept others for who they are, and to be true to yourself. Most important message of the night: We all have a purpose.
The hosts, Nicole and Dave, mentioned a little ritual they do at the conclusion of every camp session – it had something to do with touching a brick and I can’t for the life of me recall the significance of it. Probably something about North Bay and the kids’ own attitudes forming the foundation for their future. Yeah, that’s it.
They called all of the chaperones down to the stage, and they honored us for our time and generosity by having the kids applaud us. And then… they invited the kids to come down, one row at a time, and touch that brick. I was watching the girls’ side, naturally, and many of them hugged Nicole too, and several of these girls were bawling their eyes out. And suddenly, tears were forming in my eyes and goddammit I was finally finally living my dream of being on stage, staring out into a darkened theater, except this wasn’t Shakespeare, it was a middle school adventure camp and I was in danger of making a complete fool out of myself.
Time to reel myself in. I snapped a pic of Veruca as she hugged Nicole, and then gave up trying to high five the girls as they passed us since they were clearly too emotional for high-fiving….so, being strategically placed center stage, I turned toward the boys and offered my palm and they were totally down with it! I felt much better and managed to wipe the wetness under my eyes with my left hand.
The three of us drove home in silence. (My friend’s son, one of V’s friends, did not wish to be an overnighter either, so he traveled with us all week.) I imagined the deep messages from North Bay Live were sinking in, but in reality I think they were just exhausted. And me, I think I’m going to remember the experience longer than they will.
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