When I hear the word camp, I don’t think of sitting around a fire roasting marshmallows, nor do I think of sleeping bags or tents. Instead, I think of singing one of those ridiculous, yet wonderful camp songs.
The summer before I started middle school, my mom decided it would be a good idea for me to spend a week away from home and meet some new people. I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea, but I had no other choice but to go and make the best of the experience.
The next thing I knew, I was sitting on a bus with 49 unfamiliar faces. Being only eleven at the time, I had never been more intimidated in my life. The drive up to the mountains was about five hours, so to make the time pass quickly, someone thought it would be a good idea to freshen up on some camp songs. All the kids cheered and hollered at the suggestion and started singing along. I felt like I was in some kind of corny movie where people live to sing and dance and have no understanding of the real world. I had never heard any camp songs before, but everyone else seemed to know the lyrics and the corresponding hand motions. They sang about squirrels, sharks, Tarzan, bananas, and any other random animal or object. I had a feeling it was going to be a long week.
When we finally arrived at Camp Wilderness, everyone leaped off the bus, grabbed their suitcases, and tagged their new bed. The director of the camp welcomed us all, but before going over all the rules and safety precautions, another camp song had to be sung (as if five hours of singing wasn’t enough). I must have stood out against everyone because my counselor kept nudging me to sing along. Once the song ended, everyone cheered and shouted for more.
As the week progressed, I, too, started participating in the corny camp song tradition. I couldn’t help it; the singing and dancing was like some kind of contagious disease that all the campers would inevitably catch. By the second day, I started to feel more comfortable with the group, and I began to let loose. It was great because no one could judge my dance moves since they were the same as everyone else’s, and no one could laugh at the lyrics because everyone was singing the same thing.
I sang camp songs with the group everywhere I went: when I walked from the cabins to breakfast, from dinner to campfire, and from campfire back to the cabins. By the end of the week, I felt as if I had known everyone my entire life; we became like family, and I knew I would miss everyone once I returned home. I looked forward to camp all year long; I couldn’t wait to go back.
I am nineteen now, and it has been eight summers since I first went to Camp Wilderness. Singing camp songs has yet to bean obsolete camp tradition since each year the songs are passed down to the next camping generation. It seems as if the camp songs carry some magical force as every summer I witness a new group of campers uniting and bonding over the same, familiar camp songs. Now I am the counselor nudging the timid campers to participate in singing because I know it will make their experience that much better. No matter how old I am or how much I change, I will always believe in singing those ridiculous, yet wonderful camp songs.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.