Today was a sentimental day. On many levels, the events that took place today mark the end of the season. Tomorrow will be the lion’s share of the grunt work. The program will have ended, and we will spend the day doing the tedious work of packing, looking for lost items, and preparing for the journey home.
Today was the final celebration of all of our triumphs throughout the summer at Camp Takajo. I do not measure triumphs by the number of victories on the fields. Each camper has had hundreds of successes throughout the summer. It might be trying a new activity like water skiing, overcoming one’s fears as they attempt to climb our fifty-foot climbing wall, or going down swinging rather than looking at a third strike.
Sometimes, people have a misconception that summer camp should always be fun. In reality, summer camp is a microcosm of the real world with good days and bad days. Campers need to learn how to keep things in perspective and make the most out of every opportunity.
I invited the Okee campers down to my house for lunch. It was a wonderful opportunity to have quality time with these 15-year-old boys, who have become a band of brothers. We enjoyed a cookout lunch on my deck followed by a tradition that was created many years ago, when I give our oldest boys an open forum to ask me any questions they may have about camp. While some of the questions were about counselors whose names I couldn’t even remember from some of their earlier summers, more poignant questions were asked about how I reinvest capital back into the facility.
“Do you have a succession plan should you choose to retire?”
“What was your most special moment as a camper?”
We spent over an hour just talking about camp memories, and it is a time I will cherish forever. Before the Okees departed, they took the traditional photo in my hot tub, and while they rejoiced in the moment, they recognized time will not stand still. After Friday, it will be challenging for them to all be in the same place at the same time.
This evening, the camp gathered together for our Closing Indian Council Fire. We marched in single file to this sacred area in camp, where “Big Chief” Neil Minsky presided over the ceremony. There were aspects of the campfire that were serious, such as our heritage ceremony, but the most memorable part of the evening was when some of our campers performed the squat dance. I saw the look in the eyes of our oldest campers as they sat shoulder-to-shoulder watching this traditional event for the last time as a camper. As I looked around the Council Fire Ring, I smiled with pride thinking of what your sons have achieved and believe in my heart that we are not connected for a mere seven weeks, rather these memories will connect us for the rest of our lives.