I was recently elected to the enviable position of Girl Scout camp cook. I would take on the responsibility of preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for nearly 30 Girl Scouts and 6 leaders/chaperones. It is a great honor and privilege to be included in such an undertaking, crafting meals for picky eaters and the children. My menu needed to be fast to make and serve, hearty and delicious, with food to spare for wayward parents that would not leave or were too lost for the journey home. My menu consisted of pancakes for breakfast, followed by grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly (grilled or plain), and hot dogs for lunch, and pasta (with red sauce, with butter, with butter and garlic) with chicken nuggets (plain or parmigiana) for dinner. Our second breakfast would be Dunkin Donuts fresh from the store bought early before anyone was awake. I tried to keep the meals simple, quick to fix but flavorful. It was hard pleasing some adults and some of the kids, but overall, most bellies were satisfied.
If my job had only ended there, my weekend in the wilds of northwestern NJ would have been a relaxing two days of reading and enjoying the fall foliage. However, my job description was mysteriously expanded to cover nature trail guide, PR photography, music coordinator, ball field monitor, lakefront advisor, and lost parent/logistics recovery specialist. Not to say that I found any of these job titles daunting, and they did add to the enjoyment and rapid passing of the hours, but I had to sacrifice some quality time with the fresh, quiet air of the woods accompanied by a book. The tasks given to me were quickly, happily dispensed with and smiles were the best currency.
For my incredible work ethic and superior skills in the handling of any situation, I was rewarded the bunk bed of honor. It was located in a cabin down the road a piece, away from the Scouts, through the dark woods, away from the light of the camp fire, nicely perched atop a squeaky old spring, attached to a rickety wooden bunk, squeezed into a drab room with two other bunks. It was an oasis, away from the rollicking ten-year-olds that refused to sleep and moms growing ever grumpier from the same lack of sleep. I was able to envelope myself in silence and enjoy my outdoor literature in the dark outdoors. I felt like a kid at camp again, reading by headlamp in a bed that cut through the quiet with piercing squeaks with every move. I tried so hard not to make a sound and wake my room mate across the hall (another volunteer and high school classmate-turned father).
These two days were crammed full of ropes courses, archery, nature hikes, rock skipping at the lake, campfires and bug juice, dump cakes, tug of wars, and woolly buggers. The only electronics allowed were GPS units for a little geocaching, a secret a few scouts shared with some other, interested scouts. The lack of phones and Ipods dismayed some, proving to a small degree the importance we, as adults and a society, place on always being connected, but most of the kids were not effected and returned to being kids, playing, screaming, running around, breathing the outside air. In the end, the weekend was well worth the planning and hard work. The smiles were huge and the laughter echoed through the woods. My job is to nitpick the minuses to improve the next experience but it is also to savor the positives, for they far outweigh the others and are much more memorable. The kids broke camp, cleaned the floors and packed their bags. Their parents retrieved them on time (an unforeseen miracle) and the cabin and woods once again were silent. Hopefully, they are awaiting our return next year.