by Margaret Stockard
A cake goes “splat” right on the floor after first rebounding off a rafter older than my grandparents. Everyone cheers. Forks and fingers line up for the taking while the rest of the room is dancing on one leg to a song about walking 500 miles and shaking things off.
On Fridays we eat cookies the size of your face and pizza. It’s just what we do.
There’s a firetruck. No wait, it’s an ice cream truck. No it’s a U-Haul filled with balloons and Sesame Street characters. No it’s fireworks and smoke and bubble guns. No it’s Mario and Luigi and it’s raining tennis balls like a hail storm in a cartoon. No it’s pie in the face and mummies. No it’s lost shoes in a scramble…
I have lived with a turtle, a lobster, a skunk, a pig, and an armadillo.
I once was awakened by a polar bear who was partial to Vanilla Ice.
Traditions. When you think about traditions, what comes to mind? I reflect on the fireworks and homemade peach ice cream at my grandparents’ house every 4th of July, or the waking of the household at 4am every Christmas morning, to the chagrin of my parents. The film Home Alone has been watched every year since I can remember. And what would my Easter have been without the search for the “prize egg” in the hunt. Who knew tin foil could spice up plastic so nicely. Whether it be a holiday you celebrate or family or coworkers or your cat or the fact that you now cay pay off student loans on your own every month, traditions seem to find their way in. These events become memories solidified over time. They are enjoyed initially out of natural occurrence and later also enjoyed due to the remembrance of what they represent. History. Family. Community. Joy. Fun. Hopefully your traditions bring about these emotions.
Summer camp is another place where traditions thrive. Every camp is a bit different and with that, they bring about their own unique ideas, creations, and occasions. Maybe it’s throwing cakes over rafters for birthdays, or eating the same thing on the same day of every week, or jumping in the freezing water with a Polar Bear watching on shore, or even the breakout of Color War, but no matter what it may be, traditions stick with you. Those memories reflect adventure, friendships, knowledge, fun, and perhaps stepping out of comfort zones. Traditions become culture and culture is a beautiful thing, when established with positive motivations. Cookies on Fridays represent more than just lots of sugar. They represent the camaraderie of sitting down to a meal together and having something mutual to which to look forward. Cake flying across the room represents not only the celebration of someone and the thought of maybe eating some of it afterward, but the collective anticipation of the outcome of that round, icing-disc. And if someone will actually eat it off of the floor. In a lot of cases at camp, the answer is a big YES!
Campfires every week are a great way to affirm tradition. They are a way to allow people to represent a piece of themselves they might not have revealed yet. It allows them to be comfortable and feel safe in a large group. It also allows for some funny jokes and a lot of Taylor Swift. Oh and s’mores! Who can forget the s’mores…
That time your counselor spilled nail polish remover on the floor of the bunk and it smelled for a week…the time Voldemort the armadillo almost fell into the toilet…that time the OCs surprised everyone with the best Color War breakout ever….that time I made a new friend…that time I tried something I didn’t think I could ever do….that time I stood up in front of so many people and sang a song I had only before sang in my room to myself….that time I helped someone who was feeling sad….that time I realized it was okay to feel sad….that time I realized it was okay to feel happy…
These are the memories people take home with them. These are the traditions that stick with them long after their time at camp.
You’re welcome, Taylor Swift. You’re welcome.