Friday, June 12, 2009

This Is Life In All Its Glory

The flyer read, "Welcome to Camp Sweaty Scout Visitors Evening." It was that night of the week when parents were allowed to tour the camp, visit their child, and watch the campfire activities. Don't they realize that I sent the boy off to camp to get rid of him for a week? I drew the short straw this year due to the fact that the Boss went last year and the General requested my presence at camp. I did not ask him what I did to deserve that fate. It was time to man-up, slap on a smile, a gallon of bug repellent, and hit the great outdoors. That's how I found myself standing in front of the Indian gauntlet at 7:45 Wednesday night.

I've never understood the Boy Scouts' fascination with Native American cultures. Now, don't take that as a criticism of Native Americans. The scouts are supposed to be a Christian organization, but I see very little focus on Christianity in scouting beyond troops being sponsored by churches of all denominations. I see a lot of references to Native American life. I suppose a re-enactment of a Native American dance is more entertaining than a re-enactment of 39 lashes and a crucifixion. There's a party killer. Someone had the bright idea to line both sides of the one path that led from the parking lot to the campfire area with half-naked, sweaty scouts dressed in various examples of Native American ceremonial garb. Some of the boys wore fancy costumes and some wore simple costumes and all of them wore basketball shorts that hung down to their knees. Very authentic. They were all a pasty, whale-belly white color, and those scouts that had not signed up for swimming class last week and therefore had not visited water in four days smelled like they had been dancing with buffalo. Several of those scouts (more than few) were roughly the size of a buffalo, which started me wondering what is wrong with the youth of America that they are so fat at such a young age. I have nothing against fat people. I have many fat friends and I find they are lovely people, but while I have a long list of semi-plausible rationalizations for having gained as much weight as I have up until my mid-forties, I find that our youth have far fewer distractions and far less responsibilities to take their attention and energy away from staying fit.

So, I ran the malodorous Indian scout gauntlet and found my way to a seat in the amphitheater. Five minutes later, the program started. Over the loud speakers came the first few bars of a song I instantly recognized. Inwardly I groaned. The crowd cheered, everyone jumped to their feet, and a few hundred parents and siblings enthusiastically joined in singing "Y.M.C.A." 99.9% of the crowd knew all the appropriate moves to form the letters of the song and I realized that at some time in the past I missed the memo on our country's new national anthem. Eight bars into that gem and I was actively looking for a small handgun to put myself out of my misery. A single bullet would have sufficed. The Indians ran into the fire-ring area and joined in the dance. A hundred skinny white boys with no rhythm shaking their tail feathers while their buffalo sized brethren shook and shimmed like sumo wrestlers having a collective grand mal seizure.

It was a long night.

One of the favorite costume pieces of the boys was sleigh-bells ("jingle bells") strapped to their knees so that every time they ran somewhere it sounded like a reindeer convention. The boys responsible for feeding wood to the camp fire in the center of a large, raised, stone fire ring wore native American costumes and large, starch-white, asbestos flame retardant gloves. They dressed like hunters, with no dangly, feathery things that could catch fire: perfect little Indian wanna-bees in complete compliance with all of the camp's insurance company's rules and regulations. I saw scouting dads in their scouting uniforms with absolutely frightening visages that I'm certain I've seen before, hanging on the bulleting board at our local post office under the banner, "Have You Seen Me?" As I took in the ambiance of the evening my thoughts meandered back to all those conversations where my fellow Voices of Thunder told me how much fun I'd have at one of these events. They spoke of the family atmosphere and the dinner and the skits with the glassy-eyed, far-sighted look of a meth addict after a quick fix. They really do not know me. They do not read this blog. They are not aware of the depths of my curmudgeonry. They only see a friendly, benignly smiling man who sits and listens politely but never really demonstrates any genuine interest in Indian games.

Now, the bright side to the night was that I spent an hour or two with General Mayhem, whom I've missed greatly since he's been gone. I'm seeing a young man who is growing up. He's a bright, friendly boy who loves his time at camp. He gave me a tour of the facility, which is quite large. I'm certain that I earned a couple of booster points for walking cardiac hill. Twice. He showed me the places where he is taking classes. He enthusiastically explained to me what he is learning and doing. His swim class has him learning life-saving activities that I didn't learn until I was in boot camp. He was happy. I'm proud of him. I'm happy for him. I love to see him interacting with the other boys and to see how well he is received.

I'm starting to experience little bouts of panic over how old he is getting and how soon (relatively speaking) he will be leaving home. I know, I know...he's only 12. I look at him and I see him and I worry whether or not I've done everything that I need to do to help him become a strong Christian young man prepared to enter the larger world. I worry about how hard I've been on him and those times (and there were many of them) that due to pure exhaustion from long, late hours at the airport that I was irrationally angry. I'm reading Jeff VanVonderen's book Families Where Grace Is In Place, and I stand convicted on the spot for my Grace-less behavior. I need to focus on Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old he will not depart from it." I have been confronted twice in the last month over the translation of this proverb, training the child "according to his way." I didn't want to hear it the first time, but when it came up again so quickly I got the message the second time. I need to balance that with Ephesians 6:4, which tells me, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." The Boss listens to me express my fears and gently tells me that the boy is fine and that I will not teach him everything that he needs to know because no parents ever do. I cannot now adequately express my fears and I'm not certain that I will ever be able to.

So, I sat in the amphitheater, inwardly grateful that the General was sitting with his troop when the two foot tall boy scout took center stage to perform an A cappella rendition of "Ice, Ice Baby," and then fulfilled the encore request so that several scouts could join him to break dance. Skits are as much of a tradition around the campfire as dessert is after any meal with the Voices of Thunder. Failure to cook a dessert is punishable by death by the incessant whining of grown men who feel cheated out of their portion of a Blueberry Buckle. Voices of Thunder my ass. There were two dozen scout troops at camp and each one performed a skit, most of which I could not hear because the boys do not know how to direct their voices towards a standing microphone. Blessings come from the most unexpected sources.

He comes home on Saturday. I'm looking forward to his return. I'm looking forward to having my family intact. And I know as well as I know my own name that by Monday he'll have done something to give me blog fodder that has me shaking my head, wondering where that bit of lunacy came from. That is Life, In All Its Glory.


CrossView said...

Beautiful! *sniff*

You touched on so many points that I was going to respond to. Instead, I'll just wipe the tear from my eye.

Kathleen said...

Let's play a game of Common Bonds, shall we?
Native Americans
The Village People
Vanilla Ice

Common Bond: The boy scouts

Who'da thunk it?

Great post, by the way...especially love the thoughts on grace in the family; I plan to check out that book.

And...I SO completely understand this: "I'm looking forward to his return. I'm looking forward to having my family intact."

TWO of mine are going AWAY for a week at camp in a couple of weeks. As much as I say I am looking forward to fewer little people running around the house, I miss them already.