The cafeteria. A terrifying environment for many of us with vivid memories of high school. Also, a terrifying place for people who pay attention to cross-contamination issues. Also, a terrifying place for people with food sensitivities, allergies, or specific dietary needs.
Now picture an eight-year old boy, dutifully, every meal, trudging to the back to check in with kitchen staff and find out what vegan option is available.
Also knowing that at least half the time, even if they’re nice which they sometimes aren’t, that they will likely make some reference to him being a girl, due to his long blond hair. He will apparently not notice ninety-nine percent of the time.
Pancakes. Pancakes and oatmeal and some toppings. No peanut butter, because it’s a peanut-free camp this summer.
I had oatmeal with seventeen raisins, a small spoonful of brown sugar, and a bunch of toasted walnuts. There were no wieners.
I would like a boat. Also, I would like somebody to take care of my boat, because everyone I know who has a boat says they soak up a lot of money and time taking care of, and I don’t feel like doing that.
I might like some kayaks and a canoe. Maybe we’ll go that route.
But it is important to make and maintain friendships with people who have boats. Because they’re good friends.
Magdelana waterskiied this morning.
It looks so simple. “Keep your tips up. Just let the boat pull you up. That’s it.”
It reminds me of the advice I got for trying to land a backflip snowboarding. “Just hit it hard, and kinda lean back and tuck, and then land it.”
Instructions are so easy to give when something comes naturally to you. That’s why I think the best teachers are the ones who struggled. Because they give better instructions and don’t have the mindset that it just comes easy. They had to fight their way to an understanding of a particular subject or skill.
And a good waterski instructor understands how terrifying the experience of strapping sticks to your legs and being told to hang onto a rope attached to a very fast boat might possibly be a scary thing for the ninety-five percent of people who don’t grow up going out on a ski boat every weekend during the summer.
“You can do it, Mags!”
I yelled at her.
“Just keep your tips up and let the boat pull you up!”
When I was a kid, I painted a ceramic lion at camp. Yellow. Still have it. It’s not very good, but I loved doing it. There’s an instructor there now, name is Trish. She has transformed the ceramics area into something quite remarkable. Taken it from being a dumpy little hobbyist’s corner into being a charming, fully functional little teaching studio for all ages to learn ceramics.
The power of one driven person with a will, a vision, and a bankroll.
I love it when you discover you have an incredible aptitude for something you’d never known about before. Like unicycling. I was walking down the road and saw these kids unicycling. A unicycle is like half a bicycle, and only has about approximately one wheel. Anyway, these kids are hugging this fence, straddling these one-wheel cycles and trying to figure em out, and there’s a spare so I pop on a helmet and give it a go, and turns, out, whoa! I’m pretty good.
By ‘pretty good,’ I can go 20 or 30 feet before gracefully crashing, and I have not emasculated myself, in the most literal sense.
It is fun, very fun, and dangerous, which is how I go about life, carefully.
I don’t know what we had for lunch because I didn’t take any pictures. And that gets to a fundamental reason I document much of what I do: the fragility of memory.
I don’t need to remember everything. I don’t need to know exactly what we ate for lunch. I’m okay with it. I wish I had taken a picture, because I did for every other meal (I think). But, like a big puzzle with one piece missing...you gotta learn to be okay missing the things you miss and not wishing otherwise.
So I don’t know, I might have eaten a pastrami sandwich, I don’t remember. I don’t think I did, because I’m vegetarian and I haven’t usually forgotten that before.
I guess one of the five valuable things I learned from my parents about being a parent is the value of of playing. Lifelong playing. Playing as metaphor, but also literally playing. Getting down on hands and knees and physically playing with kids. Wrestling, running, sitting, crawling, sculpting dirt, swimming, throwing mud.
I watched my little brother Jonny (ignore the below reference to a different completely non-related Jonny) swim with his nephews and nieces and spit water on them and throw them seven feet high and terrorize them in the lake and I thought,
“That is the is beautiful spirit of our dad being carried on. Wouldn’t he be proud if he were here right now?”
Then a few minutes later, I realized our dad actually was there, and was busy reading a David Baldacci novel and ignoring his grandchildren playing in the lake.*
*this part is not true, but in befitting the truth-adjusting times we live in, I felt this fact fitted the story I wanted to tell better, so I adjusted it to fit.
When I was a little kid, we didn’t wear helmets when we rode bikes, snow skiied, or inner tubed behind boats.
Now, I wouldn’t think of biking or snowboarding without a helmet.
Should I be wearing one innertubing? Yeah.
Especially when you’re five feet in the air, hanging on for dear life at 20 miles per hour and the tube perpendicular to the water and your daughter’s butt is about to crash down on your head because you didn’t allocate your weight properly on an 85-degree nanosecond turn by a crazy guy named Steve Hopmann. Also known as Friend With Boat (FWB).
Johannes asked him if his original name was Steve or Stefan. Apparently it’s Steven. Sometimes he drove with no hands.
We wore no helmets, and I was grateful to be alive in the end. Steve laughed.
They assign groups at the beginning of the week, ostensibly to simplify and streamline certain processes, but really it allows the camp authorities to more readily identify problematic figures. So we are the Pink Group. I’m happy to be pink. There’s people here who don’t know me very well and thus are not familiar with many of my common sense philosophies that have led me to become a feminist. So it’s interesting being engaged in certain conversations with those people who assume they’re speaking to a friendly audience (i.e. choir) about certain topics. Because we’re in Idaho, and there’s a bunch of white people, and a lot of them are dentists, doctors, or in this case, a physical therapist.
In this case. This one guy. Nice guy from Canada. On the sandbar, something like this. I’ll start partway through. Greek storytellers would call it in media res. Starting the story in the middle. So we’re talking. I’ll call him Jonny, because he has the same name as one of my brothers, but it’s not Jonny.
We could definitely learn a few things from Canada about hospitality,
Yeah...I don’t know.
There’s a lot of Canadians pretty upset at the U.S. about the tariffs Trump set last month.
I don’t blame them.
If I was Canadian, I’d be mad too.
Well there’s a lot we don’t know,
Of course all the news is liberal and they never say anything about the good things Trump has done.
There’s a lot of respectable people of integrity in journalism, and if Trump ever does do something good, I am certain they will report on it.
Well they don’t like him,
I mean, the economy and jobs, they’re doing the best they’ve been since the recession, so I guess he’s doing something right.
Trump is very good at taking credit for anything that goes well, such as those things. Regardless of what nonpartisan economists have to say about how those trends work and the factors that affect jobs, inflation, and the economy that were set in motion long before his presidency.
The media is so liberal it’s hard to know exactly what the truth is I guess. I’m not really into politics anyway.
We stood there for a few more minutes. Then I ran into the water to attack defenseless little children. He stood on the shore, deeply pondering and reflecting on the wisdom I had shared with him moments before.
I am certain that’s what he was doing.
I walked through the sand in my wet swimsuit late in the afternoon and thought of what I would be doing the following Tuesday: trying to catch up on being away from work for a week. There is cell service, but very poor cell service. There is internet, but very poor internet. I almost wonder if it would be better to have neither at all versus a poor version of each. I don’t know. There are a handful of times throughout the week that I truly actually need both for financial and work reasons. I don’t know.
Potatoes, meatballs, bad kale, corn on the cob, apple crisp for supper. The food has been decent. The kitchen service...not so much.
We had KP duty, which means sweeping the entire caf and cleaning tables. I am quite skilled at sweeping.
Every evening, there is an activity known as “The Big Event.” Some are enjoyable. Others, such as the Mega Marathon, less so.
Tonight was the Mega Marathon. It is an event which I do not anticipate with excitement, primarily because there are two types of philosophies for its competitors:
1. those who are playing to win
2. those who are playing to get children involved, bond with them over some shared friendly and supportive competition, and help them learn some core life lessons about teamwork and good sportsmanship.
I am a bit aggressive about making certain that every child who wants to be a part of it has the opportunity to do so, and have willingly sacrificed both my spot as well as other adults spots in order to make sure that they are able to be on the team. This has not endeared me at times to some adults who have more of a Type 1 mentality (see above).
Also, there was an infamous incident last year in which me and two unnamed teammates capsized a canoe during one leg; an action that left us roaring with laughter, and other teammates not so pleased, as it dropped us from second-to-last place to last place by a wide margin.
So the Mega Marathon. There is running, cycling, stair running, chair obstacle crawling, swimming, canoeing, paddle boarding, and so forth. Magdelana ran a leg of the stairs and Johannes ran anchor on the four-person sprint relay. I ran with him. Just because. We waited in a hornet-infested conclave outside the camp parking lot, and after an initial handoff that resulted in my eight-year old teammate starting off in the wrong direction, we Jesse Owens-ed ourselves pull mell to the next phase : the canoes.
I was not asked to be a part of the canoeing this year.
We finished in last by a wide margin, and our team had the biggest smiles and the grandest high-fives afterwards. For another year, I was grateful we did it. I still dread the next time.
Some things I love to do at night, like skinny dipping and watching movies and drinking Italian sodas, not always simultaneously, but sometimes. Tonight I got to do one of those. Hint: it has to do with the country shaped like a boot and it’s a drink.
As an adult, technically, I often forget what it’s like to experience events through the lens of Childhood and how seemingly trivial events can be huge and exciting during that part of life.
Like walking around a lake late at night drinking an Italian soda with friends. Why should that not be exciting now? What’s stopping us?
It is helpful, in that scenario, to have both a lake and friends.
Elevating the trivial to the level of spectacle. That is one of my foundational mantras. Yes, I did coin that.
So that was a day.