The grand tour, part one

The girls immediately started climbing up the bunk bed ladder, throwing their Barbies off the top bunk and then scrambling down to throw them back up. My son clapped and giggled as they did so. I suggested they get their bathing suits on so we could swim in the lake. They then proceeded to rip open their luggage and pull everything out, tossing it onto the floor and my son, until they came upon their bathing suits (packed at the very bottom, duh!). I stood behind them and picked up their discarded clothes as quickly as I could and tried to fold them and put them into the built-in pine shelves in some semblance of order.

After we got everyone suited up, slathered in sun block and then cover-ups over top, flip flops on, towels swung around their necks, we were ready to go. Caroline reappeared.

“Would you guys like a tour of camp?” she offered.

“We would love it!”

“Hey little guy, would you like a piggy back?” she offered my son. He, fingers in his mouth, shyly nodded. Caroline proceeded to crouch down so he could climb onto her back. A quick hoist and he was happily in place on her back. Thankfully none of the spikes from her Mohawk hairdo were close enough to poke an eye out!

“Hi Mummy!” he waved at me.

“OK! Let’s do this!” Caroline said and led us down the hall to the staff lounge on the third floor. I took a quick glance and notice that the sleeping counselor has not moved.

The staff lounge had a fridge, a couple of ‘well loved’ couches, a small round antique dining table with four chairs, and a coffee table. On the coffee table is a week old newspaper, some People magazines, some books. The dining table had a half finished puzzle. It had a sink (full of soaking dirty dishes) and cupboards. Two of the four walls were all windows. They provided a panoramic view of the camp. It was huge.

“This is the staff lounge. You can usually find counselors hanging out in here during their instruction off in the morning.”

“Instruction off?” I ask.

“Yah. Every morning after breakfast the campers rotate through three one hour instructions. All the counselors teach two instructions and get one of the three hours off. Instructions go Monday through Saturday. In the afternoon the hut counseling staff are busy doing programming with their huts, so usually the rest of the staff is off doing maintenance, planning, preparation, or just chillaxing.”

Caroline led us out onto the wrap around balcony deck. The girls ran to have a look out over the camp.

“What is programming?” I asked as the girls gawked and held their Barbies out over the side of the balcony.

“Oh that can be so many things. It can be a scavenger hunt, sink the Bismark in some canoes, capture the flag, a game of basketball or hockey, or fishing. In the evening they also have an evening program that might be any sort of tomfoolery or shenanigans!” Caroline winked.

Tomfoolery or shenanigans, eh? Not sure what that meant, but I was sure I would find out soon enough.

We walked to the corner of the deck and Caroline pointed to a huge, old fashioned, brass bell. My son tried, unsuccessfully, to grab at the rope. Caroline gently took his hand to prevent him from doing so.

“This is The Bell. Camp runs on this Bell.”

I looked at Caroline with confusion as I was thinking, “Seriously? A bell? Not walkie talkies, not an intercom system, not cell phones? A freakin’ bell? How ‘Little House of the Prairie’ of you.” 


Caroline noted my puzzled look and nodded. 

“Yup. It is really loud and can be heard all over the property. We use it to wake the campers, start meals and rotate instructions. We use three rings, three times. We also use it for emergencies. So if you hear a constant clanging, that is the emergency signal. And at that point you should probably freak out because either a camper has gone missing, or someone is seriously hurt. You will hear this at least once during your session. We run drills to keep everyone, including the campers, on their toes.”

OK. A bell. Wow.

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