I wrote this letter to my daughter recounting the Girl Scout Encamporee we attended together. It’s inappropriate until she’s older, but I hope someday we’ll laugh about it over s’mores and hot chocolate.
My sweet little 8-year-old,
My love, your auntie asked me to write down my experience attending the autumn 2015, Girl Scout Encamporee, so you could keep it for eternity. Hopefully, this will help you appreciate the depths of my love for you.
Friday, October 16, 2015: I cleaned food scraps and empty juice boxes out of the backseat of the truck in preparation for our adventure. We were scheduled to drive two other third grade scouts and one fellow chaperone to Camp McLeod. Your dad picked you up from school early, but by the time you got home, many of your fellow scouts were already there. As the girls hucked their Hello Kitty luggage into the back of our truck, you began to cry. You didn’t want anyone to go with us. We had decided weeks earlier I’d drive and I would not, in good conscience, back out because you had a change of heart. You were furious but survived.
We pressed on and made the 2:15 pm ferry. Once underway, our troop took over the passenger deck and you girls swarmed the vending machines and video games like bees to a hive. No one was allowed coinage, but the disappointment was impressively controlled. After about 15 minutes we went back to our cars for snacks and to disembark the ship, which is code for getting you ladies the hell away from the hive.
We arrived at camp just before dark. Our accommodations were open-air structures designed to keep the rain off; but the wind, medium-sized mammals, and insects were totally fair game. Long after sunset a group of fifth graders showed up dragging their weary chaperones behind them. They spent the next five hours squealing like a group of cheerleaders at a cosmetics counter.
The bathroom facility was at the top of the hill bordering our huts. It was divided into four smaller partially walled off rooms, each containing a seat with a hole that dropped about twelve feet. The sewage from all four toilets (and I use the term “toilet” loosely) collected into one large cesspool in the hill. I believe it contained, at least, one decomposing mammal along with excrement from various girl scouts since the mid-1960s. The smell kept our gag reflex on alert. Trying to convince someone to go up there was difficult; convincing you was downright impossible. You let your frustrations known, but you were particularly upset when I wouldn’t let you sleep in our troop leader’s bunk. Despicable me. Sigh. End day 1.
Saturday afternoon we took to the lake in canoes. The scout elders (a group of retired female curmudgeons outfitted in khaki, hiking sandals and scowls) were quick to point out their canoeing expertise and our ineptitude. Unable to control life on the outside, I can only assume they found the Girl Scout organization the perfect avenue to exercise control over the inferior.
As the elders began their laborious and condescending speech on canoeing, you were asked to take off your backpack in preparation for a life vest fitting; which was required of all of us. You weren’t paying attention (justifying the need for your life-saving device in spades) so I tried to help remove it for you. You swung around snapped at me and threw a kick. I looked up in horror but the elders were too unaware to process what their dull senses barely picked up. Other troop moms quickly and kindly whisked you to another spot and you were not allowed in my canoe. I was going to pull you from the activity altogether but they gave me the understanding “let us handle it” look. My love for them was cemented.
Along with a fifty-year-old canoe, I was assigned two adorable scouts with questionable work ethics. We made our way to the pier and first in the boat was scout #1, weighing in at a mere 50-pounds. She was instructed to sit the middle of the boat. I followed in the rear and scout #2 directly behind scout #1. The REI-clad elder barked orders for the two girls to move all the way to the front of the canoe, not on the seats, but the cold boat floor. Their little child-sized arms held child-sized oars that barely made it over the side of the canoe. The oar blades skimmed the surface of the water with the force of butterfly wings. I asked if they could sit on their knees or seats so they could help row and the elder glared at me, “that isn’t safe.” Clearly this elder hadn’t seen me in control of a boat or she would have gladly spread out the responsibility.
I spent the next hour traversing the lake with a couple freeloaders singing campfire songs and bitching my clip was too slow. A few times I got close enough to your boat to hear you shout your hatred for me, which prompted me to turn and row faster, making everyone happy.
Later that night we returned to camp and made pizza pockets in pie irons and canned apple pie filling mixed with yellow cake in the dutch oven. Sadly, this meal was my idea/fault and dessert was awful. The pizza pockets were tasty but not enough food to fill everyone up. Staying true to the Girl Scout way, everyone was very polite and didn’t say a word about the meal’s shortcomings. You had forgiven me by then and sat on my lap by the fire and I thought I’d gone to heaven. I chose to forget your earlier indiscretions to enjoy the moment. You were the perfect lap warmer, and with food in your tummy, happy to boot. All was right with the world for those blissful twenty minutes.
Once all you girls were asleep, the moms and I sat around the campfire. These women are absolutely fantastic human beings; not just for putting up with you ladies for no pay, but they laugh from their bellies and are truly kind people.
The fifth graders heard us whooping and hollering and came over to see what was going on. I found this slightly annoying at first because I had to watch my language, but the girls turned out to be hugely entertaining. They were everything I remember this phase of childhood to be… insecure girls, picking on even more insecure girls, who hadn’t yet found their voices. They were completely ridiculous. Ah, pre-teendom, may it come and go swiftly. We laughed. We cried laughing. We chuckled uncomfortably.
Around 6:00 am the next morning, a fifth grader shouted across the campground, “Who crapped in the doorway?” Another squealed, “It smells like pee.”
During the night, one of the fifth graders woke up and needed to use the bathroom. For reasons completely understandable, she didn’t want to go to the toilets on the hill so she dropped her pj’s and went outside the entrance to the hut. There was one flaw in her plan, she didn’t venture far enough away to keep her crap from detection. Unsurprisingly, no one fessed up to the midnight dump, but really, who could blame her?
We packed up, separated you from your scout nemesis for the moment and made our way home without further incident.
I love you, my sweetheart. I hope you had fun. I think in a few years I will be able to say I did. Much like childbirth, you forget the pain in time. I’ll do anything for you, just please don’t ask me to.