“Good Morning, all you Rockbrook Girls” and welcome (welcome back) to camp! Today, as we opened our third session of the 2016 season, we were so excited to greet the girls and their families arriving at camp. The excitement was everywhere as the girls smiled and waved from inside their parents’ cars, jumped out to hug an old camp friend, or just marveled at the wave of enthusiasm coming from the waiting counselors. It was a morning of meeting friendly people, learning names (made much easier by the wood chip name tags everyone was wearing), and settling into the cabins. As the girls arrived, pockets of activity sprung up on the hill. Some bunk mates, quick friends, decided to take a hike together to Rockbrook Falls, and others to Castle Rock. Some played tennis, and others tetherball. Just wandering around in the sunshine, being part of the welcoming, was fun for most everyone. The whole morning felt wonderful, in many ways pleasantly familiar, yet also poised with anticipation for what we all know will be a great time together. It may have been a record, but by about 11:30am all the campers had arrived and the parents had departed leaving us to get started.
An assembly under the huge walnut tree on the hill is the perfect way to do that. With crazy creek chairs unfolded, Sarah and the Hi-Ups (10th grade campers) led everyone in several camp songs and the line songs. She introduced the directors and the head counselors who assist each age group. More than a first introduction to the people and organization of camp, it was a brief, official welcome to the mountains.
Lunch was a guaranteed crowd-pleaser: Rick’s secret-recipe macaroni and cheese, steamed peas, and fresh fruit salad. Of course, there were the two super-stocked salad bars and peanut butter and jelly stations to round things off as well, but bowl after bowl of the mac-n-cheese seemed to roll out of the kitchen as the girls went back for seconds, and even a third helping.
Cabin meetings after lunch, during what’s normally our “rest hour,” gave the girls a chance to learn about the daily chores in the cabin like sweeping and emptying the trash, and to discuss a few of the all-cabin rules like respecting each others belongings, for example. This was also a chance for everyone to “sign” the inside of their cabin by writing their name somewhere on the rafters or bunk beds. That’s a Rockbrook tradition that reaches back into the 1950’s. Originally, I think the girls used shoe polish to sign their name and date. Now it’s usually a small name written in pen, but we’ve also seen “John Hancock” style signatures in multiple colors of paint. Later in August, we are hosting almost 200 Alumnae at Rockbrook for a reunion celebrating our 95th year, and I suspect many of the women attending will spend some time searching for their name that they wrote as a girl at camp.
It was time to cool off with some swimming after that. As the age groups took tours around the camp learning the different activity areas and the names of the many buildings (“Where’s Hobby Nook?), they changed into swimsuits and rotated coming down to the lake to demonstrate their swimming ability for our team of lifeguards. This “swim demo” requires the girls to swim out into the deep part of the lake about 50 feet, return using a back stroke, and then tread water for a full minute. Considering the temperature of our stream-fed lake (chilly!), this can sometimes be a challenge, but almost everyone was able to complete the demo and receive a pink swim bracelet and white swim tag identifying our strong swimmers. The whole scene was more festive and fun than you might expect since we were also serving lemonade and playing Reggae music. Pretty soon, we were laughing and enjoying ourselves, nodding our heads to the music, having a grand summer time.
It’s another long tradition at Rockbrook that the girls select their activities after they arrive at camp. We believe they thrive when given this kind of choice and enjoy the flexibility that comes with switching the schedule halfway through the week to try a set of new options. To orient everyone to those options, we spent some time this afternoon watching the counselors present songs and skits (usually a bit of both) about the amazing activities they have planned. The number of opportunities can be a little confusing, so the skits help the campers know what’s new, learn where each activity meets, and see which counselors will be the instructors. The climbers showed off the climbing wall. The lifeguards performed a skit about the toys and games available at the lake everyday. The fiber arts staff showed a few of the cool weaving and sewing projects the campers can learn, and there was an impassioned song devoted to tennis, volleyball and gagaball. After dinner, the campers will sign up for their first set of in-camp activities. Knowing the options and where everything happens, they are now ready to make better choices for this rotation. We’ll also announce the first out-of-camp trips tonight, making it even more difficult to decide! But deciding: that’s part of the fun.
We’re all excited to get started. The counselors and special activity instructors are ready and eager to get these girls busy creating, riding, climbing and so much more. Looking around, it’s pretty clear that the girls are ready too. Let’s begin!