The Process of Saying GoodbyeAugust 16, 2013
We continue having as much fun as possible as we approach the end of the summer. As the sun rose this morning almost 75 campers and a dozen staff marched with me to our two waterfronts for the final Polar Swim of the summer. In tandem kids from both camps stood on the docks, did jumping jacks, and then leapt into the brisk lake water. Afterwards they stopped by the dining hall for a quick warm up of hot chocolate and croissants.
Just after breakfast all of Kenwood Junior Camp left on an all-day trip to the Whales Tail waterpark. The weather started off sunny but cold but by the time that the boys and their counselors arrived it warmed up. They had a spectacular day sliding and diving together. Deena and Adventure Dave took the Evergreen Juniors on a nature trip to Profile Falls. It’s a 50-foot tall waterslide and swimming basin about fifteen minutes from Camp. While the water was chilly the girls could not get enough of it, and they spent hours standing beneath the water as it cascaded over them.
Around 2pm I walked up to Senior Hill to announce the start of the 12th Annual Iron Chef competition. Using separate gas grills and portable induction range tops three groups of 1st, 2nd and 3rd Year Seniors battled it out to see who could make the tastiest meal using specific ingredients. Unlike other years, each member of each team had to train ahead of time in the Kitchen Lab with Chef Rachel. The teams had to field members who were “certified” in all of the following skills: sauce making, knife handling, presentation, serve-safe, cooking fundamentals, and proper temperatures. Over the past month the boys spent many of their Free Play periods taking Rachel’s classes and planning for this big event. Tonight they were presented with baskets filled with a dozen different ingredients that they had to use when crafting and creating their meals. Halfway through their cooking they were also given a “surprise” ingredient. All of Senior Hill was there to cheer on their friends, and sample the delectable treats each team created. The meals were incredibly creative, and each team produced some really good food. In the end, a group of 2nd Year Seniors won first prize, and tomorrow morning at assembly I will award them their prizes: the coveted Golden Spatulas.
Tonight we began the process of saying goodbye. In Evergreen the beginning of the end began with their summer Banquet. For most of the day our 1st & 2nd Year Senior girls were preparing the dining hall for this special event. This year’s theme was Midnight in Paris, and to decorate they painted elaborate signs and made beautiful table centerpieces. Their creativity was wonderful, and when I entered the dining hall just before dinner the building looked even more beautiful than usual. At Assembly our 1st & 2nd Year Senior girls also put on a short, funny skit to welcome the entire girls’ camp to the banquet. The message of their theatrical endeavor was simple but important: that it’s important to fill your life with adventures and special experiences, and to explore the world beyond your zone of comfort. Our Kitchen Staff made a special dinner for the girls and their counselors, and all night long there was a blend of singing, cheering, poignant speeches, and crying. Afterwards, the whole girls’ camp moved to the Theater Tent, where Sheila put on a slide show of her favorite pictures from this season, set to the most popular songs of the summer. From across the campus you could hear the girls singing along with every song, reveling once more in the highlight moments of this year.
In Kenwood tonight the process started with our Closing Campfire. It began just as the sun set, with an enormous, silent procession led by Head Counselor Walshy. He and each of the unit leaders carried a torch, and the boys arrived at our Campfire area with their faces illuminated only by the six hand-held fires. Closest to the fire sat our Big Brothers with their Little Brothers. Scott sang a wonderful rendition of Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me In Your Heart For Awhile”. As is tradition, I sang “The Star Wars Song”, and it sounded like every single camper and staff member knew each and every word. My son Max joined me on guitar while wearing his Batman pajamas and then headed straight off to bed. The unit leaders spoke about how much they loved their campers, and what Camp has meant to them in their lives.
Then Scott brought up our graduating 3rd Year Seniors. One by one, each of them stood before the rest of Kenwood and talked about their favorite memory from being a camper, or spoke about what Camp has meant to them, or offered a bit of knowledge based on their experiences here. It is hard to put into words how moving this was. Some recalled special moments from their childhood when they had felt most connected to the Camp community. Some discussed their profound anxiety after arriving on their first day as an 8 or 9 year old, and how with some kindness from peers and counselors it had dissipated. Some mentioned the hardest moments of their lives thus far, and how their Kenwood brothers had helped carry them through it. A few even spoke of struggling at times in their Kenwood career, and how grateful they were that they had worked past their challenges, and ultimately now were filled with profound sadness at having to graduate. The outpouring of such real emotion was incredibly powerful for all of us. I was so proud that each of our 15 year old boys felt so comfortable to share their feelings with the Camp community, and could see in the eyes of our younger campers (and even counselors) that this ritual only made them respect and idolize our oldest boys that much more. I love that expressing your thoughts and true emotions is part of what it means to be a member of the Kenwood & Evergreen community. (I filmed each of their speeches and look forward to editing them into a movie after Camp which I will share with the community. It’s more than 45 minutes of footage, and a little too much to work on tonight!).