Monday, August 10, 2015

#405 Let Your Light Shine

I recently returned from my yearly trek to Connecticut to volunteer at The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp.  “Let Your Light Shine” is this summer’s theme.  This is my third year going and in two more years I will get my five-year tote bag!  Yes, I can buy one at the camp store, but it’s not the same.  My roommate this year got hers and it’s yellow.  So jealous!  

Ok, back to the beginning.  I did Session 6 and had 13-14 year old girls again.  Most were 14 and incoming freshmen.  We had a full cabin this year with eight girls.  Such great young ladies and so much fun.  They got along together very well and we had no trouble with them at all.  Medically they all seemed to be in good places.  None were currently on treatment.  We had to watch out for any rough contact but that wasn’t really an issue all week. 

The past two years I’ve stayed in LuLu’s Lodge.  This year I stayed in Steve’s Station.  That is the doctor housing just behind LuLu’s.  It’s like apartments – a living room and three bedrooms.  One bedroom has a private bath and the other two share a bath.  My roommate this year was Sarah.  As I mentioned, this was her fifth year and she was helping out in my unit (Blue) with one of the boy cabins.  She was there with her mom, Beverly, a volunteer nurse for the week. 

Since this is my third year I am beginning to recognize a few campers and also volunteer and full staff counselors from prior years.  I saw Wendy, a volunteer nurse who was with my unit my first year. Such a nice woman!  My roommate from last year, Maria (the snorer!) was in my Steve’s Station apartment, but she had the room across the hall and was by herself.  Apparently they took last year’s survey to heart.  She and her husband, Rich, have been volunteering at camp for 19 years.  Their son attended camp as a kid and they’ve been involved ever since.  Rich is well known throughout camp for his fun hats.  Every time you turn around he’s wearing a different hat – a hot dog, a garlic clove, a jester’s hat.  You name it, he’s got it.  He also wears a cape made out of what looks like a kid’s bed sheet complete with cartoon characters.  He’s great! 

My cabin counselors were Jill and Monica, with Emily, Kaeley and Monica floating.  The other volunteer counselors, who slept in the cabin, were mom Kathy and her daughter, Grace.  Kathy’s other daughter, Annie, was in the other girl’s cabin.  Annie is pre-med in college and Grace is either an incoming senior in H.S. or college freshman.  This was their first time at camp.  Kathy heard about camp at New York’s Big Apple Circus.  They were all so great to be around. 

This session had the most family members that I remember.  Sarah and Beverly, Kathy and her girls, Maria and Rich (I told campers they were my parents – she’s Filipino and super short).  On top of that, our unit leader K (I forget her full given name, but she goes by K) had a brother volunteering that week – King.  How wonderful to be able to share camp with someone so close to you! 

The weather was pretty near perfect.  It was a bit hot the first couple of days (they moved the campfire inside - it was fake!), but cooled off the rest of the week.  We had a tiny bit of rain on Stage Night that produced a beautiful rainbow!  The night before at Cabin Chat the question was, “What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?”  My answer was a rainbow.  Every time I see one I am amazed!  And then I got to see one at camp.  So cool! 

I took my day off Wednesday (was nice to have the break in the middle) and Sarah generously let me use her mom’s car.  Carly from last year was not at camp so no Mini Cooper this year.  I am just grateful people let me use their car so don't care what kind I get.    

This year my pilgrimage was to Stamford, Connecticut to visit Gilda Radner Wilder’s grave.  I read an article last year in the Indianapolis Star about celebrity grave sites.  I saw that hers was in Stamford and immediately googled how far it was from Ashford – a little over 100 miles. 

I left just after 9 a.m. and rolled into Stamford close to 11 a.m.  I found the cemetery easily and then it was time to find the grave.  Luckily there is a website called Find A Grave.  You type in a name and it gives the bio and a photo of the site, along with directions on how to find it.  This wasn’t a huge cemetery, but it would have taken me a while to find it on my own.  Her stone is under an ornamental tree and in front of some small bushes.  Just right of the center of the cemetery.  There she was!  Someone had put a photo of her Saturday Night Live character Roseanne Rosannadanna behind her stone so that helped too. 

I spent about 30 minutes sitting quietly on a stone bench in the shade.  My original plan was to have lunch with her, but I wasn’t very hungry when I got there due to my big breakfast.  I had some snacks with her instead.  After taking a few photos, I enjoyed sitting there enjoying the peacefulness and thinking of the joy that Gilda brought to the world.  How ironic that I am working at a camp where most of the kids have cancer, and she died of ovarian cancer in 1989.  She would have loved camp.  The kids would have loved her right back. 

When I got back to camp and was back “on duty”, people asked what I did on my time off.  “I drove to Stamford to see Gilda Radner’s grave.”  They just looked at me like I was nuts.  Nevermind.   

It’s hard to list highlights from camp.  This year they were really into card games.  Spit, Egyptian Rat Slap, B.S. (“Take it!”)  So one of the girls was bluffing in B.S. and I got her once.  Every time after that if anyone said B.S. to her she would giggle and say, “Take it!” and we’d have to pick up all the cards in the discard pile.  She was such a card shark! 

One of the girls had had a stroke so her left side was weaker.  She kept up with everyone and was a joyous spirit.  She would hang back from playing cards because she couldn’t hold them in her left hand and at first hung back when the others were practicing a dance for Stage Night – the Hoedown Showdown.  The other girls and counselors encouraged her to participate and she ended up performing with the cabin.  That was a definite highlight.  That and seeing her on the low ropes.  She did great, again after some encouragement. 

Another highlight with two other girls happened on an afternoon at arts and crafts.  Barbara Grapstein, who founded HealingHeadbands,was going to show us how to make our own headbands.  She founded the organization to create something for cancer patients to wear on their heads that is soft, comfortable and has UV protection.  Best of all, you create your own design!  You paint on a piece of card stock and they transfer the artwork to a headband and mail it to you a month later.  I decided to paint, “Raise A Little Hell” on mine with polka dots in the colors of all five units – red, blue, green, purple and yellow. 

But before we made the headbands, we went outside to do some laughing exercises.  This is where things got interesting.  I have been in several situations where I’ve felt uncomfortable doing something, but you learn to just do it and get it over with.  She led us in laughing exercises, “Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha” and other exercises where you had to make funny faces and motions.  The two girls from my cabin didn’t know what to think of this.  The one made the BEST faces.  Her eyes would get big and she’d look to the side like, “What is going ON?”  The woman noticed and tried to get them more involved, but it didn’t really work that well.  They went along with things, but you could tell they were WAY out of their comfort zones.  The rest of the week I asked the one girl to make the eyes for me and we would laugh about it. 

Other fun things at camp - we had a tall club of sorts this week.  The entertainment guy for the week, Logan, was about 6’9” or 10”.  Evan, the volunteer coordinator, is around my height.  Jackson, one of the full-time counselors, was maybe 6’7”.  And a volunteer counselor in another unit was close to 7’.  I was tempted to get a picture with all of us for my “Feeling Normal” fictional album, but I didn’t.  I did run across Logan putting on stilts one morning. 

I learned how to make friendship bracelets – regular and chevron.  I didn’t learn how to do the boondoggle (or gimp) key chain.  (Maybe next year.)  We had quite the controversy on whether it was called boondoggle or gimp.  Grace and I were in the boondoggle camp, the girls were all in the gimp camp.  The only reason I’ve heard of boondoggle was from Napoleon Dynamite. 

I also painted my nails during the week.  I do not like painting my nails because of the upkeep.  The cabin had some amazing blue polish so I painted one nail mid-week.  Then another, then both hands.  I actually liked it!  Until it started to chip.  I kept it on until I got home.  

On my flight home I sat next to a girl who looked about 14 years old.  She sat next to her dad and played a video game with him on her phone.  After we took off I decided to finish off one of my friendship bracelets.  I taped it to the tray and started tying off string.  I could see her looking at it out of the corner of her eye.  Eventually she said, "I like your colors.  They're really pretty."  I thanked her and said she probably had done a ton of these.  I also told her I just got back from camp - being a counselor, that is.  Look at me - 46 years old, with bright blue nail polish, braided hair, working on a friendship bracelet, coming back from camp.  Gotta stay young, right?

When I got home my mom said a version of her usual comment.  This time it was, “You probably didn’t meet any tall, interesting men.”  Well actually I did, but they’re all in their 20s.  (Evan might be early 30s but he’s married.)  Such a pity.  It’s weird to be around tall, good looking guys and then you realize they could be your son.  Agh!! 

One last thing to mention - a bicycle sits outside the arts and crafts building.  You can tell no one has ridden it in a long time.  It is the most interesting bike I've ever seen.  I was Paul Newman's bike and he used to ride it around camp.  I so wish I could have met him, or just seen him ride by on his bike.  

I am thankful for the opportunity to be at camp for a third time.  I hope I will still have the time next summer to get one more year closer to my “Five year tote bag!  Five year tote bag!  Five year tote bag – ahhhhhh!”

Until next year, keep raising a little hell!  (I can’t wait to get my headband!)  Oh yeah, and let that light shine too!  

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