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“Camp is fun!” Mallory said, about thirty minutes after we arrived. Then she looked back at me. “Camp is fun, right, Mommy?”

“Camp” was for Girl Scout leaders and their daughters – a special weekend getaway. I decided to bring my kids to camp so I could get a feel for the facilities and decide if camp was something I would ever want to do with our whole troop.

Camp was climbing on logs

and rocks

and crossing a “swinging” bridge.

Camp was Phoebe’s sudden fits of hysteria anytime she, Mallory, or I got separated by more than ten paces. “Mallory, wait!” she would wail, whenever Mallory tried to run ahead. “Mommy, hurry up!” she would holler tearfully, if I was lagging behind. “We have to stay together!” She takes the Buddy System very seriously, does Phoebe.

Camp was going on a canoe!

We were subject to a 15-minute lecture on Canoe Safety by a woman who called herself, mysteriously, Band-Aid. As Band-Aid spoke about grips and feathering and sterns and pivoting on a dime, I felt trepidation about piloting the long aluminum crafts parked (beached? Stowed?) on the shore of the lake. I pictured myself grounding the boat in the shallows or crashing into a stump, and suffering the ignominy of being rescued by…Band-Aid.

And yet…once we got in, and I pushed off, my qualms disappeared. Canoeing is fun! I realized, and paddling a breeze. (A good thing, because my daughters quickly decided that they didn’t want to help paddle at all – it made them feel “wobbly.”) I didn’t mind. There was something awesome about being able to propel us all – myself, my 8-year-old who reaches my chin, my 5-year-old whom I can hardly lift anymore – with one stroke of an oar. I could’ve spent all day in that canoe! I’d like to canoe again! (Of course, I was canoeing on a very placid cove in a drought-depleted lake, on a day with no wind to speak of. I don’t know if I would like to canoe in more challenging conditions. But I’d like to try!)

“Camp is fun,” Mallory said again, while we waited for dinner. “Except for canoeing, though.” I asked her why she didn’t like canoeing. “It was buggy, and hotty, and afraid-of-falling-outy,” she said, syncopatedly.

Phoebe said, later: “Let’s play the Opposite Game. For example, if I said, ‘camp,’ you could say… ‘a nice hotel.’” Because Camp was realizing, as night fell, that we would be required to sleep in cabins that were not wired with electricity and thus had no lights or, more importantly, fans or cooling devices. Girls and adults slept separately, and my cabin was quite a distance from the girls’, down a dark windy path. My children, as you may know, often still ask me to sleep in their bedroom with them, because across the hall is too far away. After dinner and a campfire and singing and s’mores, we headed to the cabins and I promised myself that if either of them – but my money was on Phoebe – if either of them complained, or cried, or expressed any kind of fear or doubt about the sleeping arrangements, I’d take them home.

I tucked them in – which just meant arranging their sleeping bags over the icky cot mattresses, it was too hot to cover up – and kissed them good-night and left them in their cabin with three other girls. I stopped by the showers, thinking that perhaps I’d rinse off, but beat a hasty retreat when I saw the quantities of spiders and beetles clustered therein. I arranged my own bedding and changed into my pajamas and sank down onto my own icky cot mattress, which immediately folded almost completely in half and made me worry about the integrity of the cot springs. I read for a while with my flashlight. I sweltered. Dear God, but it was hot. There was not a hint of a breeze. It was just as well I couldn’t take a shower. After thirty minutes, I decided to go check on the girls. I was sure they were as miserable as I was and would ask to go home. I stumbled along the path with my flashlight. As I neared the girls’ cabins I heard – giggling. Lots of giggling. I pushed open the door and saw Mallory and Phoebe sitting on the floor with the other girls. They were playing a card game by flashlight. Phoebe said: “Mommy, we’re having fun! Go back to your cabin!”

Color me surprised. And very relieved. And happy they were having a good time. And disappointed that we couldn’t go home. I went back to my cot and read and sweltered some more. Eventually there was a call for lights out and I lay there in the dark, listening to girls giggling, and crickets chirping, and frogs croaking, and owls hooting. It would have been pleasant were it not for the terrible terrible heat. Eventually I slept, fitfully.

The next morning we tried archery:

I liked archery almost as much as I liked canoeing; the girls didn’t care much for it. Mallory in particular had trouble grasping the finer points. (“Turn your wrist,” I heard the instructor say to her. “No, your wrist. Your wrist. Pull back on the string. No, pull back. The string. Pull back, on the string.”)

We went on a nature scavenger hunt; the girls were tickled to find a tree smaller than they were (look by their feet).

Then it was time to go home. The girls were sad. I expressed surprise that they didn’t want to leave; after all, they hadn’t much enjoyed the major activities. “But we liked playing in the cabin!” Mallory said. “And I liked singing campfire songs!” Phoebe added. “I wish we could rewind and start the whole weekend all over again,” Mallory said.

As for me -- I was gratified that the girls had fun, that we’d spent time together, that the weekend would be a special memory for them. I was glad we’d gone – not least because I know now for sure that this is absolutely not something I want to do with my troops. The bugs, the heat, the lack of lights, the dearth of clean running water – I don’t like it, and I can’t see myself mustering the necessary enthusiasm to fake liking it through an entire weekend with nine or ten girls in my care. We’ll find something else to do. There may not be canoes, but there will be clean bedding.


aimee said…
That was a very funny recap. I love reading your blog!

Anyway, that made me think of Slumber Falls and how I don't think I could go back as an adult and do it. But canoeing and archery sounds very fun.
Karen said…
Well, I think that you are definitely my daughter! I never cared much for camp and after one time at Girl Scout Camp and one time at church camp, I chose not to go back. Mainly because of the heat, the bugs, and the lack of clean water!
Anonymous said…
Ok, as your co-leader ( I am not sure why I am showing up anonymous-but whatever) I totally agree. I would be happy to camp at the zoo or the aquarium, heck even in the back yard-but no over nights at Girl Scout Camp. I mean there is no need to suffer through heat. I did that when my a/c broke this summer!


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