Thursday, February 25, 2010

Camp songs and cold hot dogs:
Bradford Woods memories last a lifetime

by Kim Evans for the Herald-Times

"I have lost my underwear. I don't care, I'll go bare. Bye, bye long johns..."

1977: I learned this song (to the tune of “Bye, Bye Blackbird”) as a fifth grader at Bradford Woods. I’m sure my Arlington Elementary classmates remember our counselors teaching it to us on the first night of camp in the dining hall after dinner.

“Oh, they were so dear to me, tickle me, hee, hee, hee. Bye, bye long johns ...”

We also learned how to square dance and tap maple trees for syrup. During crafts, I personalized a leather bracelet by pounding my name into it with a mallet and metal letters. I wore my hair in a bandana all week. My group had to stay in one of the old cabins, while the lucky ones got the new cabins with reading lights built in to each bunk. My friend showed me a letter she was writing to her best friend in Ohio. I wrote to my family. I treasured one whole week of adventures in the woods, snoozing in my Campbell’s Soup sleeping bag each night.

“Oh how I miss that trap door there behind me .”

1984: Fast forward to my senior year of high school, when I had the opportunity to return to Bradford Woods as a counselor. After meeting the girls in our cabin, I wondered if I was this small, curious and excited only seven years ago. One of the privileges of being a counselor was getting to stay up late with a teacher and listen to the IU vs. North Carolina basketball game on the radio. Not wanting to wake the girls, we stifled our cheers as IU won the game and advanced to the next round of the NCAA tournament.

“If you see them you’ll know where to find me .”

2008: Fast forward again. Now, I help my daughter roll up the old Campbell’s Soup sleeping bag, which I’ve saved for this very occasion. I deliver her to the gymnasium at University Elementary, where she learns of her cabin-mates and meets her counselors. Even though the Bradford Woods program has been cut to two nights only, it’s hard for me to let her go. She’s done sleepovers before, but this fifth grade camp thing feels more like a rite of passage.

“I have lost my underwear. I don’t care, I’ll go bare .”

Two days later, I hear joyful laughter from the buses as they return and pull up to the curb in front of the school. I wade through the sea of luggage and parents reuniting with children to find my daughter, stepping off her bus as happy as I’ve ever seen her, singing a new song she learned at camp.

She’s full of stories about how they got drenched by a surprise rainstorm on their first night, eating cold hot dogs on the hiking trail because the fire wouldn’t start, learning archery and having to get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to raise the flag.

“Long johns, bye-bye.”

1977: After our last meal, we heard a commotion outside the doors of the dining hall. Our craziest counselor came running in, waving a pair of underwear on a branch. His underwear was found. Laughter erupted, followed by wild cheers and a memory was sealed in my mind forever.

And now this unique program is on the cutting room floor. I hope our community will support a referendum or another funding source can be found to save the Bradford Woods experience for future generations.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Winter storms shift life to an interesting state of suspension

by Kim Evans for the Herald Times, Bloomington, IN

It’s Monday night. Snow’s in the forecast again.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be listening to the radio as they run through their list of school closings. Bartholomew...Bedford/North Lawrence...Brown County...Eastern Greene...Richland-Bean Blossom...Martinsville... and ... and ... time stands still...will they say Monroe County schools?

If they do, the decades-old snow-day-butterflies-of-joy will resurrect in my stomach and flutter a happy dance once more. When I was a kid, MCCSC was always the last to declare a snow day.

As a self-employed mother of a sixth-grader, I have the benefit of flexing my hours when needed, which means a snow day offers the opportunity for a slower morning pace, more time under the warm covers, and the opportunity to reminisce about winters past.

I was a sixth-grader when one of Mother Nature’s biggest snowstorms, the Blizzard of ’78, moved through Indiana.

This was an exciting storm. My family and I huddled around the news broadcast on the small black and white television in our kitchen. A little “Blizzard Warning” box was a constant reminder in the corner of the TV screen. I was enthralled. I never wanted that little blizzard box to leave.

Campus was shut down, so my parents got to stay home from work. They joined my brother and me for a marathon session of Monopoly on the card table in the living room. We kept the game going for the duration of the blizzard, taking breaks only for meals, sleep, to check the weather report, or to gaze out the window. I think each of us bounced back from bankruptcy at least once, borrowing Monopoly money from one another to get through the rough patches.

It was a sad transition for me when the storm finally passed through our part of the country and the news station removed the blizzard warning box. But the next phase of discovery was about to begin. We ventured outdoors to explore the pristine Arctic landscape left behind.

Getting the door open was our first challenge. A snow drift reached halfway up the door. Once we dug out, it took several hours just to shovel the sidewalk, resulting in snow banks up to my shoulders on either side. The wind had sculpted interesting curves and drifts in the snow around our house and trees. My brother and I couldn’t resist jumping into a drift by the house that reached over our heads!

Our house sat a quarter mile from the highway, and with pioneer-like determination, we trudged our way to the road to survey the scene. We finally arrived, only to discover the highway was no longer discernable. I remember the odd sensation of playing in the road, eerily silent, without a care of traffic.

Eventually the roads were cleared and life slowly resumed its normal pace. The string of snow days had reached a total of nine, and returning to school was like returning from a long vacation break. Teachers sent home thick “snow packets” filled with make-up schoolwork. It was time to shake the snow out of our heads and get our minds working again.

We now fast-forward up to 2010. By the time this column makes it to print, we’ll know if the 5 to 8 inches that was forecasted actually made it to the ground. For now, life is in a temporary state of suspension; a nice break from the normal routine.