The fire pit was set for the next hot dog roasting and S’mores-making evening, but the family was away on vacation. I was dog sitting while my daughter and son-in-law were enjoying some well-deserved fun in the sun with our grandsons.
Something about the way the tee pee of firewood was arranged took me back to 1960-something. I was heading off to overnight camp about an hour from our house in Kingsport, Tennessee. Girl Scout Camp Sky-wa-mo was to be my home away from home for two weeks.
While my older sister Betty had tried to describe her experiences there nine years earlier and my brother David chimed in with his tales of adventure at the companion Camp Sky Valley, I was not fully prepared for what I would encounter there.
And being fully prepared…well, isn’t that what a good Scout is all about?!
My Scout Leader (my mother) had taught our troop some camping things well. I could pitch a tent. I knew how to make a tin can stove and cook on it over a waxed cardboard starter coiled inside a tuna can. Two cans and you’re set, right?
I also could get a rip-roaring fire going as long as dry kindling was available and someone stronger than me had cut and carried lots of logs within reach. I was such a lightweight.
As soon as the parents left after dropping me off, my first of three memorable summers of adventure began.
Treading water in the chilly spring-fed lake with jeans and tennis shoes on for what seemed like forever earned me a badge. It took me all summer to work up to it, but I did it! Learning to tie and untie numerous knots quickly (like who really needs to know that?) garnered another.
On the last night of the two week session, the entire camp gathered for what had become my favorite activity. Campfire by the lake. This time the singing and storytelling had a twist.
We each jotted our best moments of the summer on a slip of paper and sent it off into the water. (So that’s what those little sailboats we made in the craft house were for.) Senior counselors added candles to nonflammable holders that floated alongside our memories until the last twinkle signaled its goodnight. I can still feel that stillness…
I had to return. There were many more memories to be made and captured. Little did I know that my jotting days had just begun!
I still remember how to do the J stroke from the second season’s canoeing lessons. Not to brag, but when I took sailing and canoeing for a college credit, my instructor complimented my technique. (What?! Bet you wish you’d gone to my college and taken fun stuff like that!)
By the third year, I was a CIT (counselor in training) and discovered that I was born to be a teacher. Yes, I showed the next generation of campers how to gather their own wood and build a proper fire, how to mark a path through the woods with rock formations as signals for the next hikers coming along, and how to identify each of the snakes native to that location.
They soaked up the seriously-scouting information on the training agenda and earned lots of badges. What I hadn’t been prepared for at all, however, was how much fun I had while experiencing unscripted moments with them.
I took those “littles” under my wing and taught them campfire songs that I can belt out to this day. We created hilarious skits where each of us contributed something, even the most stage frightened of us all. That had been me, three years earlier.
Something about the sky-wa(ter)-mo(untain) air had freed my spirit to soar and confidence to blossom. I had built up lots of muscle (biceps as well as inner strength) through those summers away and found myself looking back with gratitude.
Especially every time I watch candle glow near water or sit around a fire roasting marshmallows.
I’d love to support you in capturing moments from your youth that have contributed to who you are today. Sharing your stories with family or friends might just inspire someone else to start their own jottings journey! Let’s get started today!
Capturing the Moments That Matter…Energizing Your Faith…Passing It On!