Saturday, July 24, 2010
Head for the Hills
It's that magical time again. The time when you've finally evicted the stinky and disreputable civilization that had evolved in your kids' gym clothes during the school year, and are now working on eradicating the criminally insane squatters from those same kids' sleeping bags.
Can you smell it? It's camp season.
In this house, we've been sentencing one kid or another to summer camp for the last twelve years. I assure them it's because, as city kids, they need the chance to breathe fresh country air once in a while. And yes, I continue, fresh country air does smell like a horse's powder room. If nothing else, they appreciate the smog a little more when they get home.
Having raised equal numbers of Scout Campers and Girls' Campers, however, I can tell you from experience that the two events and their participants have just one thing in common, that being the word "camp".
Nothing else, from preparation to execution to debriefing, even occupies the same orbit.
Let's start with preparation. My girls usually begin shopping for camp in February, and it takes longer for them to complete their list than it took the Almighty to construct the mountain they'll be camping on.
A typical list of essentials for Girls’ Camp reads something like this:
*Industrial size toiletry bag
*Shoes for hiking
*Shoes for sitting around the campfire
*Shoes for if it rains on the other shoes
*Different shoes for if stuck-up Chelsea Brinkerhoff shows up at camp with the same hiking shoes as mine and then tells everyone I got mine in the kayak department just because her feet look like they were made by Mattel
*Journal with matching gel pen
*Camp cot because I am SO not sleeping on the ground
*Hello Kitty stickers for Beehive aged Secret Sister
*Jolly Rancher jellybeans for Secret Sister
*Lip gloss for Secret Sister
*Justin Bieber trading cards for Secret Sister
*Hair doo-dahs and sparkly nail polish for Secret Sister
*Hand written notes of love and encouragement for Secret Sister
*Eight pounds of mini Reese’s peanut butter cups – NOT for Secret Sister, seriously, don’t even ask
*Photographic memory to capture every snotty look, gossipy remark, and sinister act of deliberate ignorage perpetrated by fellow campers
*Color coordinated Rubbermaid bins to store everything
On the other hand, my sons usually have no idea they're even going to camp until we drop-kick them out of the Yukon into the church parking lot. Their camp list is completed at a gas station while en route, and includes the following:
*Duffel bag filled with Starburst and beef jerky
When the girls arrive at “Camp Celestial Marriage”, they’ll find the campsites linked together by clotheslines spray painted silver, from which glittery pictures of all the world's temples are suspended.
Each ward will have been assigned a temple, an Article of Faith, and a scripture out of Nehemiah, and all of their camp décor, skit scripts, and “singing in the trees” songs will be based on these topics. At the end of the week awards will be given to any campers who have not re-worded their scripture to include a line about leaders who force girls to hike being thrust down to the pit of endless woe and eternal aggravation. Tears will be shed.
Meanwhile, the boys are unloading their gear at “Camp Fartsalot,” and already they have run into trouble. It seems that, among twenty-seven scouts, five scout leaders, two bishopric members, and a dad who fell asleep in the back of the pickup, not one has remembered to pack a change of underwear.
This is not the problem. The problem is there are no Council reps around to document the whole thing and sign off on everyone’s “Nasty Bum” merit badge. In the true spirit of scouting, the men and boys valiantly sit down on their duffels and begin a hearty lunch of Starburst and beef jerky, confident that the merit badge guy will mosey along some time before the end of the week.
Day one at Camp Celestial Marriage is progressing nicely. All the hair within a 20-mile radius has been French braided, the Beehives have begun their weeklong effort at driving the Laurels to homicidal distraction, and there has only been one slap fight, for which the leaders apologized, and have promised not to repeat.
Everyone has finished toll painting their inspirational wall hangings, which are displayed with boutique-like elegance throughout the site. Bumper sticker philosophies now beam down on anyone passing up the trail toward the “showers”:
“Happiness doesn’t pour from cloudless skies. It comes from learning to dance in the rain.”
“You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”
“If I ever find out who ate all my mini Reese’s peanut butter cups I will stick your French braided head in the latrine.”
The scouts (having finally received proof from the council guy that they really do have filthy laundry habits) now set off to begin earning additional merit badges. Each boy has a list of those badges he has not yet received, including such testosterone-intensive requirements as “Knitting”, “Puppy Hugging”, and “Life as a Mama’s Boy”.
Leaders are breathing out threatenings that if the scouts don’t earn these merit badges while at camp they can just forget about earning them back home, as they, the leaders, would rather front for Yanni than set aside valuable scout meeting time to work on them.
After all, there are only so many good ice-blocking Wednesdays available during the summer, and the scout meeting schedule is booked solid.
Being naturally predisposed to obedience and remembering what anyone says for longer than the time it takes to pass gas and blame it on the newest kid in the troop, the scouts solemnly heed the counsel of their leaders and immediately trot off to the archery range to earn their "Acupuncture" merit badges.
This will be followed up by the “Watch Where You’re Standing” merit badge, the “Here, Just Glue That Cut Together” merit badge, and the coveted “For Crying Out Loud Don’t Tell Your Mother How You Got That Scar” merit badge.
This is the only award that is actually the size and shape of a body cast. It’s a very useful merit badge.
Eventually, of course, it will be time to go home. After a lovely testimony meeting where there is so much bawling the lower campsites are washed into the ravine, and where the Laurels finally reveal the location of their Beehive hostages, the happy residents of Camp Celestial Marriage retire to their tents, and for the first time in five days, begin to question the wisdom of avoiding “those gross showers” and opting to tidy up using lemon scented Handi-wipes instead.
When the priesthood brethren arrive in the morning to help the girls break camp, they will conclude that, rather than face federal bio-weapons charges for bringing those tents back into the city, they should wrap the whole lot in C-4 and blow it to kingdom come. As veteran Scout Campers themselves, the men are completely in their element; some of them keep explosives in the glove compartments of their mini-vans.
The boys, of course, are sunburned to within an inch of their crusty adolescent lives. This is a good thing, as they are also so unfathomably dirty they were carrying several micro-organisms which, had they not been neutralized by frying that top layer of scout epidermis, would have upon arrival back in town mutated into such a powerful communicable disease as to wipe out the entire West Coast by Labor Day. So California will have had a narrow escape there.
Some time around noon on Saturday, all of the ward’s youth will spill out of well-ventilated SUVs onto the church lawn, where they’ll be hosed off via industrial water truck.
Their remaining camping gear will be placed into hazardous waste containment units and shipped off to an undisclosed bunker for scientific study and eventual demolition, and Camp 2010 will be officially over.
After yet another decontamination shower and a comprehensive raid of the refrigerator, the kids will fall into a post-adventure coma and not wake up until it’s time to start destroying the house again.
At which point their mothers will earn the “I Can Swear in Six Languages” merit badge.
That one’s my favorite.
Originally published in 2009, but revised and declared timeless by all three voices in my head.
Posted by DeNae Handy at 3:32 PM