When my mother asked me to contribute to this blog, a sense of dread overtook me. What do I have to add about the Camp Fire and Camp El Tesoro experience that hasn’t been said before? My family history extolling how generations of us have been involved in various Camp Fire programs has already been told here. What am I left with?
As an adult, I have quite a different view of Camp Fire now than when I was immersed in it from my early Blue Bird days up until tenth grade or so. I started out in a club with my mom as the leader and all of my elementary school friends in my group. Starting the summer before second grade, I attended Camp El Tesoro every summer with at least one friend from home, so it was always more like a party than anything else. We had group camping weekends multiple times a year and cooked over the open fire for every meal. I remember we always had Monterey Taco Bake for one of the dinners, much to my mother’s chagrin. “How many times can you eat that? We have a whole cookbook of things to try!” We had group workshops with Ann Sheets teaching us life and safety skills, the yearly candy sale, and week-long stints at Day Camp. At one point, I was even captain of the Camp Fire Drill Team that performed yearly in Fort Worth’s Parade of Lights, Fun Runs, and various mall appearances.
I did all of these things and more and I can say with great confidence: I hated almost every single moment of it.
That took an unexpected turn, didn’t it? I implore you to stay with me here.
Childhood is about experiences. You learn your likes and dislikes. You learn to rely on others for help, but also learn that a lot of times you are enough. This isn’t anything that can be gleaned from the internet or cartoons. While the lessons were hard, and often oh so hot with the Texas summers, I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for Camp Fire and Camp El Tesoro.
In a pinch, I can make a campfire without resorting to Googling life hacks to see what common everyday item is flammable. (Have you seen the one about using corn chips as kindling though? That would have been helpful on a soggy morning.) I have a special place in my heart for kids who go door to door selling candy for fundraisers and know it’s not really about overpriced candy at all. I know that while camp is hot and it seems like you spend your whole day walking, the bigger picture is so much more important than being temporarily uncomfortable.
I have carried each and every thing I learned throughout my Camp Fire experiences with me and tried to pass them onto my own child. I can see the frustration in her now. I can hear the complaints about how hot camp is and how far away each activity is from the next, even though she’s been blessed with a closer dining hall and cabins with actual electricity and windows instead of screens. I can see the embarrassment well up in her when she has to get up and sing a song with silly body movements to accompany it. However, I also know that the quickest way to overcome your crippling shyness and stage fright is to just get out there and DO IT! Do the thing that you’re scared of because not only will you see that there’s really nothing to be scared of in the first place, but no matter what, you will always be able to look to your left and right and see your friends looking just as ridiculous as you while singing and dancing to the latest and greatest ‘Repeat After Me’ song.
So, while I may have harbored a deep resentment at the time for having to high kick my way through a Saturday afternoon at the mall, or run countless laps at something that was definitely NOT a ‘Fun Run,’ or actually experience nature in person and not through a television screen (even though to do so meant sweating more than I thought possible and being an all-you-can eat mosquito buffet), I wouldn’t change it for the world. My teamwork skills help me get through a day of parenting, my memorization of the Monterey Taco Bake recipe gets me through a lull in dinner ideas, and yes, daisy chains and friendship bracelets will always be important treasures.
Rebecca Trammell is a guest blogger for the Camp Fire Blog. Rebecca has been involved with Camp Fire for many years, first as a Blue Bird and eventually as a camper at Camp El Tesoro.