How will it break? What color will they be? Will they be pitted against a best friend or a brother or sister? Will they be chosen a camper captain? Will they buckle under pressure or will they rise to the occasion?
If you have no idea what I mean, click here to read today’s New York Times, describing the experience and origins of Color War. This tradition— almost a hundred years old—is often the climax of summer camp. For many kids, it’s not only the high point of the summer, it’s the high point of the year.
Reading this article brought memories flooding back. What I remember most about Color War: lining up to march with our team to meals and activities while singing fight songs. Hours of rehearsal to memorize several songs written by counselors that we’d perform on the last night at the Camp Sing. The Apache Relay, passing a baton after racing or doing a stunt like you’d see on Minute to Win it-–involving the participation of every camper in the whole camp. I also remember it seemed as if the Green Team always won.
Those four days of Color War every summer are embedded so deeply in my brain that to this day, I remember Color War songs I learned at age 8 — that I sang ONCE—better than I remember most of my college courses.
I went to camp every summer for 8 weeks—from age 8 through age 18—including two years as a counselor. I waited 10 months every year for the chance to sleep on a sagging mattress and swim twice a day in a freezing cold lake and sweep the floor and clean the bathrooms…and love every minute.
It’s where experiences and attachments can help form a future. Where kids both grow and get to be kids—learning about sports and sharing and life and love. Where romances often bloom—including my own parents, who met at the same camp I attended in upstate New York. I didn’t meet a mate at camp—but I was lucky to make friends—and bonds—and memories—-that have lasted a lifetime. If you went to camp, maybe you did, too.