DING DING DING DING…
“Ugh” you think to yourself as you begin to realize that horrible ringing isn’t just some aspect of a dream but is, in fact, the morning bell. You know you love Birch Rock but something about a 7:45 high-pitched wake-up bell is really starting to make you rethink your life choices.
Dang it, you’re late! You hop out of bed, throw on whatever pants you had lying around from evening activity, your mask, and that hoodie you have hanging up over your bed (because you know you need long sleeves) before running out of the cabin. By what feels like a miracle, you’ve made it on time and, somehow, not even the last person to arrive. Musc begins to recite the usual flagpole announcements: Naming each cabin, the raising of the flag, the pledge, head waiter, patrolman… Hey, your counselor is on patrol and that’s cool but doesn’t really affect your day… and so on with the rest of the things only the staff needs to know.
Putting on your mask, You walk up the stairs to your breakfast table. You stop only for Emme so that she can check your temperature (it’s 97.9, Just like the radio station!) and to give you hand-sanitizer. you remember that today is cold cereal Saturday! After the cereal is the usual; eggs, bacon, and potatoes. You chat with your fellow campers and the counselors there about the day you had before, about the day ahead and about how nervous you are for campfire. Between moments of conversation, you take a moment to look up at all the names on all the plaques. You notice them every day of every summer you’ve been to camp even now you find a certain comfort and camaraderie with all the names who sat where you are now but never have met. When the meal is over you listen to the morning announcements. They come and go with counselors hyping up activities, that McWain Day thing you heard about yesterday but ending up being cancelled, and those funny announcements where someone just calls on one of the C.I.T.s and they have to just improv something.
This year, clean-up is so much longer than usual and you feel it too, but also appreciate it because now you have enough time to actually make all sides of your bed (and not just the outward facing side) and really sanitize all corners of the washhouse.
You’re so excited because you signed up for sailing. You haven’t been since last year and now that first period is an hour and half you’re practically swimming in time. You can take the time to rig everything and you’ll still have more than enough time to sail everywhere and just enjoy everything. And there’s no wind, It’s like you’ve never seen the lake so calm. Who knew looking at a placid lake under a wide blue sky could be so frustrating.
“Hey can you help me take pictures?” Says the counselor with the camera, “we’ll drive around in the motorboat to get pictures of kayaking and boating who’ve already left.” You excitedly get your PFD and get in the boat, immediately forgetting all the times you mocked Waziyatah for using such extravagant technology. You fly across the water like you never have before, stopping at every Birch Rocker on the lake for a picture. You’re so caught up by the excitement you don’t even notice that the whole ride was maybe twenty minutes. By the time you get back to camp, you’re so giddy with joy, you don’t even mind that you have to settle for the classic non-windy day sailing activity of paddle boarding.
You hear the bell but don’t pay any attention to it, not because you’re already on the waterfront, but because there’s counselors everywhere with massive jugs of sunscreen telling you to “put on copious amounts of sunscreen!!!” By this point in the morning, it’s so hot that you don’t even care what the temperature of the water is when you hop into the deep end. Normally, you’d swim in the cradle but you just found out that there won’t be instructional today because of this “McWain Day” thing, so you’ve decided to do laps in the deep end instead, so that you can train for that long distance swim you’re anxious to do. You had planned to do these laps through rest period but everyone else is working on their skits, and you don’t want to swim alone so you get out with everyone else
You’ve been told you need to read for at least the first twenty minutes of rest period, but really you just end up reading for however long it takes for your counselor to fall asleep before playing a card game quietly with your friend in the cabin.
Most summers this is the bell that startles you, but this summer your counselor makes you wash your hands 5 minutes before it’s rung so you know it’s coming. You leisurely stroll down to the gazebo knowing that, with such a small camp, there’s no real wait for food. You see that it’s cold cuts. Not bad, but you were hoping for chicken patties. You walk to your usual picnic table and talk to your friends. After lunch is the shortest clean up of the day. You don’t mind because you spend that time cleaning the washhouse, because you made sure in first rest to not mess up your bed at all.
You’ve signed up for wood-shop for the first time because you love the counselor who teaches it and want to see him actually teach. “So what do you want to build?” He says. You didn’t think this far ahead, and say you don’t know. “Let’s build a pencil holder” He says. He helps you design it, helps you make the appropriate pencils holes, and you proceed to spend the rest of the hour sanding.
You don’t care what it is, SNACK IS BACK!
“Get to the waterfront, it’s McWain Day!” People are saying, so you walk on down to the disco deck still not knowing what’s going on. You get there and people are frantically changing and putting on PFDs. The waterfront director explains that everyone is about to get in a boat and follow our neighbor down the lake. You don’t believe that’s possible but that’s everyone is doing and all the counselors are excited about so you do what everyone else is doing. Before your eyes, one by one, boats are being put into the water. Lo and Behold every camper and counselor is able to get into all the kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and row boats camp has and everyone is paddling up wind. You’ve never seen anything like it, the whole camp forming one beautiful and epic armada. You splash your friends with your paddle, they splash you back without a care in the world. You go up to Camp McWain, down to the testing site buoy, across to where camp Waganaki and back to Birch Rock. It’s like you’re taking over the entire lake, parading around like kings conquering all the land and sea visible. You’re so caught up in the excitement of the moment, you don’t even care about how sweaty you are. Part of you wants them to call a general swim, but when you get back to camp, you realize that you haven’t started your skit at all, and no longer want a general swim.
You really don’t want to make a skit and no one really wants to make one, but the counselors say you need to, so you start talking about it. Before you know it, everyone’s pitching ideas and something is coming together. One of your ideas gets picked up to be put in the skit, so now you’re really involved and by the time the dinner bell rings you have the outline and, although you’re not ready, it’s definitely better than nothing at all.
The Saturday evening flagpole is always wild because the counselors come in their cool outfits of Hawaiian shirts, Birkenstocks, and funny sunglasses. Musc announces the best cabin (Cabin 8), Best Bed (Evan W.) and Super Camper (Kenny D.) You were really excited for hot dogs and hamburgers, but instead the kitchen came out with some amazing steak and potatoes. Despite the good food and strange announcements, you can’t help but overthink about your joke in your campfire skit that’s coming up. You know your joke about Musc being old is funny, but he’s a nice guy and you don’t want to hurt his feelings but you also know that it’s not that big a deal and he’ll probably find it funny too.
You’re here, the biggest moment of the week. You and your cabin in-front of the entire camp. Sure that’s 47 people, but that’s still a lot for you. You have a hard time paying attention to the amazing music and great skits that are going on before you because the anticipation is killing you. Finally, you’re on. The skit begins and people are actually laughing when they’re supposed too, you say your line and it hits! You walk off stage with a smile from ear to ear. Now, you just sit back and enjoy all the other skits that made fun of Musc’s age. You also enjoy the music of Jon Allberry, Sebastian T., and the Boathouse Boys. Just when campfire is about to end, the staff lead you and everyone else to the docks. From there you see a floating platform across the lake. Fireworks! Just like it was the Fourth of July, the Whichards begin setting them off. In the loud booms, bangs, smoke and lights from the incredible display, you think to yourself about how great this “McWain Day” thing turned out to be. As the fireworks come to a close, Musc leads a Birch Rock cheer for the Whichards (who put on the fireworks) and follows the cheer by beginning “let’s hit the hay.” You know all the words and have sung it so many times you don’t even need to think about them anymore. But, for the first time in a long time, you actually pay attention to really hear the meaning of them again. And As you’re walking back to your cabin with all your friends around you singing those familiar words as well. You appreciate for the first time how true those words are, have always been, and always will be.