Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is staring out the window this Saturday morning, moodily wishing that the damned lawn would mow itself or that I had thought to invest in a flock of sheep so that I wouldn’t have to go out into the beastly sauna that Ma Nature has seen fit to set up in our neck of teh woods and deal with it.  Oh, well.

Yesterday was spent retrieving the two younger gels from camp in the wilds of southwestern Pennsylvania.  (The eldest gel skipped it this year and is currently on an extended stay with grandparents in Connecticut.  Frankly, Mrs. R and I are enjoying having got rid of her for a while and wondering just how long our luck will hold out.  Some people might find this attitude cold and heartless, but the parents of teenagers will understand what I mean.)

Anyhoo, long time friends of the decanter will recall that I have written about this camp before.  Its official name is Summer’s Best Two Weeks, although because it’s a Christian sports camp with a heavy emphasis on evangelization, I often refer to it privately as Bible-thumper camp.  This is only in jest, of course, because we really are quite pleased with the place.  For one thing, the camp’s motto – relentlessly drilled into the heads of the inmates – is “God first, Others second, I’m third”  and you can’t argue with that.  Why, whenever we come to pick up the gels, we always notice how infused they are with the Spirit, an infusion which sometimes lasts a whole fifteen or twenty minutes into the car ride home.

Another nice thing about SB2W (as it’s known familiarly) is that it’s very old-fashioned about the whole “camp” concept.  Campers are allowed (in fact, encouraged) to write and receive letters, but that’s it: no phone, no electronics, no other means of contact with the outside world.  When childs are dropped off, the parents are told politely but firmly to get lost.  The cabins, nestled into the traditional lake-front piney woods, are bare-boned affairs, all wood and screens.  The sports and activities all involve maximum expenditures of energy.  The daily schedule is heavily regimented.   There is an entire album’s worth of songs and slang that has come down over the years.

Aaaaand, this is not the sort of place where, as Kipling might put it, all campers are paid for existing, and no camper must pay for his sins.  Competition in the various sports and activities is fierce.  When one receives an award at this place, one knows one has earned it.   (Apart from individual achievement, the kids are split into two teams, the (red) Romans and the (blue) Galatians.  Each team earns points based on how its members do, with much fanfare and braggadocio at the end of term when the winning team is announced.  In fact, this team spirit infuses just about every particle of the campers’ existence.  Many times when one of the gels is wearing her Roman t-shirt out in the “real” world she’ll be stopped by another SB2W alum and, depending on which team they might be or have been on, be subjected either to some enthusiastic high-fiving or some good-natured ragging.)  Both gels did quite well this year.  The middle gel surprised us by bagging a camp-wide award in rock climbing.  The youngest (perhaps less surprising) won the spirit award for her age group.

So there you have it.  Those friends of the decanter with smaller children might consider bookmarking the place for down the road.  (I might also add that apart from its terrific spirit, it’s remarkably inexpensive.) For many families, it’s habit-forming.  This was the middle gel’s fifth year and the youngest’s third.  It’s not at all unusual for kids to spend many summers there as campers and then go back while in college to work as counselors and staff.  It’s just that kind of place.

The one thing the camp doesn’t appear to teach is the gentle art of packing up to go home.  Oh, when one arrives at the cabin, one is impressed with the neat way in which the sleeping bags, teddy bears, pillows, shower kit and duffel are laid out on the bunk, but when one actually opens the duffel, one is transported into a whole other terrible world.  Wet towels and swimsuits, filthy clothes, shoes, papers, sunscreen, bottles, knickknacks and who knows what else are jammed in any 0ld how.   Every year, after smelling the gels’ kit all the way home,  I threaten simply to burn it all on the driveway.  Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but it’s also seemingly next to impossible.   (I suppose there’s a deeper theological message somewhere in this.)

Well, I suppose I’d better go deal with the lawn before the sun reaches Keats’ meridian height.