Just before lunch, for about an hour, our daily schedule includes a period we call “First Free Swim.” It’s a time when Chrissy, our waterfront director, and her team of lifeguards open the lake for anyone who would like to come down for a dip. This can be quite a few campers and counselors, so Chrissy stations extra guards and adds additional “Lookouts” to watch every part of the lake. During this time, we also open our 50ft water slide (affectionately known as “Big Samantha”) for those brave enough to climb the tower and hurtle themselves down the slick ride into the lake. Today, while the slide was open, some girls did tricks off the diving board and others simply wanted to float on a tube, relaxing in the sun. Lots of girls swam laps too, trying to reach the number needed to join the “Mermaid Club.”
“First Free Swim” is also simply a block of free time for the girls, a time when they might choose to go swimming, but just as frequently do something else. They might sit and read in the shade of the walnut tree on the hill, work on a friendship bracelet perched high in a red porch rocking chair, meet at the tennis courts to hit a few balls, race flip flops down the creek, play a quick game of tetherball, or perhaps plan to take a shower. And these are just a few of the options… There’s a “Rockbrook Runners” club, the “Green Team,” play practice, hunting for the Rockbrook Gnome, re-checking your mailbox, and of course, just hanging out talking with your friends. What’s important though, is that we have multiple times (there also a “Second Free Swim” period before dinner, and “Twilight” after dinner) built into our schedule when the girls have the freedom to choose what they would like to do. Different from their busy schedules at home, their extensive commitments and expectations associated with school, life at Rockbrook provides time for our girls to pursue their own interests, to set their own pace, and to enjoy this kind of independence. It’s a little strange for children to have this kind of freedom— after all, we adults are constantly telling them what to do —but these Rockbrook girls handle it quite well. They easily stay busy and happily engaged. They love being empowered in this way. In the end, being given this freedom is another boost, experienced firsthand, to their self-confidence.
In both the riflery and archery activities, we’ve got girls with a serious look in their (one) eye. With this many days of experience banked, with this many bullets and arrows successfully striking their targets, these girls are really becoming great shots! They’re pulling back their bows and loading their rifles with resolute confidence. They’ve mastered being steady, and honed their powers of concentration. For some of the girls, this is serious business because they know that next week Rockbrook will challenges the boys of Camp Carolina in a Riflery, Archery and Tennis tournament. We’ve held this match each session for decades, and no matter what the outcome of the contest, it’s always great fun for the girls to show off their skills.
It’s also a tradition for the girls of Rockbrook to attend a dance with one of the local camps for boys. Earlier in the summer we danced with the boys of Camp High Rocks, but tonight we held an event with Camp Carolina. Actually we teamed up to hold two events, a dance for the younger boys and girls at Rockbrook, and another for the older teenagers at Carolina. This allows us to play more age appropriate music and to reduce the number of children at one venue. The girls anticipated having the dance and were excited to wear a special outfit or crazy costume. One girl dressed as a pumpkin, another a crayon, and another a clown. Several girls wore tie-dye t-shirts and shorts, but in every case this was a time to clean up a bit.
At Rockbrook, our favorite local DJ, Marcus, played current pop songs and plenty of group dance numbers (The Cha Cha Slide, for example) making it easy for everyone to join in the dancing. Overall, the dancing was pretty silly, with lots of jumping to reach one hand in the air. The thrill isn’t particularly about individual dance moves or polished displays, but instead is derived from the whole group, crowded together, hopping and hustling simultaneously. As each familiar song was played, the girls screamed and sang along, having an absolutely fantastic time. Also— and this was surprisingly true for most of the teenagers as well as the younger girls —the dance wasn’t much about the boys. It was rather another chance to dress up (silly or not), laugh and act a little crazy, be together with friends, and have a really great time. These girls know how to do all of this, and it’s impressive!