In my family we moved a lot. My dad was in the Army, and I had lived in Germany, Hawaii, and Massachusetts by the time I was 7 years old. We had a tradition that the first meal in each new place, each person got their favorite food. For my sister and me, that was luckily a simple macaroni and cheese, but I can picture each and every time we ate it surrounded by boxes, ready for a new adventure.
Our entire lives are infused with traditions, whether it’s the bride and groom cutting a cake, or opening pajamas as a holiday gift, or passing down a traditional family recipe. Traditions keep us connected- to the past, to each other, to our values.
Nowhere is this more evident than at summer camp. Because we return to camp seasonally with a long 10 months in between, our traditions are the common threads that bring us back together. These shared experiences remind us that no matter where we’ve ventured off to all year, we still belong to the Summer Fenn family.
The Director kicks off the day with a tradition that has been part of Summer Fenn since its inception- with the booming instructions, “TURN TO YOUR COUNSELORS AND ASK…” (here’s where all the kids join in)… “WHAT’S NEXT?!” Reflecting our values of openness and curiosity, we start our day with an enthusiastic spirit of adventure.
At some point during the day our campers may have an opportunity to earn and receive Summer Fenn trading cards. These counselor cards have silly facts and arbitrary point values, and kids have binders full of them from their years at Summer Fenn. Getting the signature of the counselor on the card supposedly doubles its point value, and watching a camper light up when handed the card of their favorite counselor is one of my true joys as the Director. Summer Fenn trading cards are unique to Summer Fenn, so this tradition fuels the proud feelings of belonging to something truly special.
And at the end of each day, the traditional freezy pops, because ending your day on a sweet note means you always have something to look forward to. Even more importantly, it’s a treat that’s not earned, and can’t be taken away. Just being yourself is enough here, and everyone is included and accepted exactly as they are. Our freezy pops may look like frozen, artificially colored sugar water… but we know they’re so much more.
There are so many other Summer Fenn traditions- too numerous to relay in a short blog. Some are thoughtful and serious, and some are silly and hilarious, but each holds the promise of a return to our connections to each other, and to our own internal compass. Maybe this is why families return year after year, and why our senior campers get a bit weepy on their last day. We can only hope that wherever we go, we can hold on to these moments by revisiting the touchstones of our traditions, as simple as macaroni and cheese… or a blue freezy pop.
Posted by maggie on Saturday January, 7, 2017