by Steve Purdum on April 10
Just Give Me One Extra Season
Just give me one good reason and I promise I won’t ask you any more. Just give me one extra season so I can figure out the other four.
No, John Prine didn’t spend a night at Camp Mishawaka, but his name is signed on the wall in Central Belding cabin. That’s because he played a show nearby Camp that a friend and I attended when I was a young counselor in the late 1980’s. I guess I was practicing some wishful thinking. With his death this week, I went down to the cabin and found the graffiti that my friend had penned more than 30 years ago. If you don’t know John Prine, I can recommend him to you as a gifted singer-songwriter, and a remarkable chronicler of the human condition. But there is also a child-like wonder to many of his songs, playful rhymes, simple progressions and a colorful imagination.
In his song Blue Umbrella, he sings about needing an “extra season” so he can figure out the other four. (Wouldn’t that be nice!) As I think about it, Camp is sort of like an “extra season” for kids. It allows them to, in no small way, figure out the other four even though it’s part of the regular calendar. We’ve often said that Camp Mishawaka is the place where kids find their best selves- as they figure out who they are, who they aren’t and who they’d like to be.
Rather than some magic bonus, Camp serves as an opportunity for kids to set aside identities that may have been assigned them as early as kindergarten- the jock, the nerd, the tomboy, the helper and even the “bully.” Some of these traits may serve them well and others may not (especially the bullying!) But what seems important to me is that kids have the opportunity to figure it out for themselves, with help and guidance from counselor mentors and their fellow campers.
Some have suggested that our current situation is akin to an extra season- albeit one that no one chose or welcomed. We’ve all found ourselves with some amount of extra time to explore, clean, organize closets and our vast cache of photos, but we’ve also been given time to figure “it” out- whatever it is. I submit that kids need our guidance, limits and example now more than ever, but they also need some space to explore, rhyme and let their imagination run wild. Whatever that looks like in your house it might just bring a bit of camp to them at a time when they need it most.
I wish John Prine had spent a night at Mishawaka! He would have been a helluva good counselor, put on a campfire sing-along for the ages and reminded us all that maybe finding that illusive extra season is closer than we ever realized.
Be well and stay safe.