In this blog I would like to address a topic that I only briefly mentioned in my last blog. I believe I worded it something like, “Mataponi is an environment in which silliness is as valuable as chocolate chip cookies.” I’d like to shed light on this particular comparison, which while entertaining at face value, doesn’t nearly give enough information to accurately depict the phenomenon to which I’m referring. In order to give proper credit where credit is due, I will use this blog entry to provide at least some of the specifics that I’ve seen throughout my twelve summers at Mataponi of both silliness and chocolate chip cookies.
Snack occurs between fourth and fifth period – it’s a period after lunch and two periods before the end of the day. This particular period has for my entire duration at Mataponi, been the time that the two youngest divisions at camp (the juniors and middie A’s) are at the waterfront. The juniors have boating and middie A’s have swimming, and then they switch. Snack occurs right in between this switch. On days that there are chocolate chip cookies for snack (or chipwhiches, which is camp vernacular for two chocolate chip cookies with ice cream in the middle) there are about a hundred young girls cheering and screaming as they sprint up the hill from the waterfront to the dining hall in their multicolored bathing suits to get their hands on the snack. The only way to accurately describe it is to say that at camp, chipwhiches are received with as much enthusiasm as the Beatles would have been in Times Square at the height of their popularity. Because I’ve worked at athletics for the past four summers, something similar can be witnessed from the athletics fields as the entire camp sprints down the hill to the dining hall, shouting as they go to pass the word about the heralded snack.
Usually the word leaks sometime earlier in the week, whispered down the lane from the girls who have cooking class to their bunkmates (“There’s going to be cookies for snack on Wednesday!”) So that by the time snack comes on Wednesday everyone is practically trembling with anticipation. Of course there’s a perpetually stocked fruit bar which the ripest and most delicious fruit for those opting for the healthy option, and even those campers with gluten or dairy allergies are still swept into the hysteria and grinning right along with their peers while they eat a popsicle or another suitable substitute. No one is left out of the midday hype that is snack.
So now – when I say that silliness is a trait regarded as highly as chocolate chip cookies, it will be understood what I mean. Silliness is the best trait to possibly have at Mataponi. Maybe when these girls are at school during the year their affinity for spoken word poetry or science fact of the day or the song they wrote about the maintenance men is of no interest to their peers but it’s these girls who shine at camp – girls whose talents may be ignored or silenced in school. I remember growing up there was a girl who had a hat full of scientific facts and every morning she would pull one out and read it. This became a bunk tradition and spread fast, while at first only her bunkmates wanted to know the fact of the day, she would soon be stopped throughout her day by just about everyone she passed who would want to know the fact of the day. The same can be seen by the camper who practices impersonations and who has learned the entire dance featured on episode 203 of Zoe 101 – these girls’ accomplishments are in no way confined to their bunk but are shared in the consciousness of the entire camp.
There are also several events throughout the summer to showcase the eccentric talents of campers. Saturday night campfires feature an act segment that gives campers a week to prepare their acts, so this is a time that the perfectly cultivated bunk dance or song comes to light, and will sweep the camp for a week until the next week when the next dance or song is performed. My bunk still sings our McDonald’s song that our counselor taught us when we were eight, and we’re all staff in our twenties now. Let me put it this way – each girl’s “camp fame” is about as proportionate to their level of silliness and no one is left out. Everyone is celebrated for something. In the real world, laughter, eccentricity, silliness, these are traits to be silenced to give way to demanding curriculums and homework and the drone of daily life. At Mataponi, each camper is renowned, celebrated, and loved for being nothing other than exactly who she is. And that is something that truly is as wonderful as chocolate chip cookies.
Written by Sara Sherr.