Disclaimer: I love all my Tawingo-bound friends.
Three times every year, an elite group of Hillcrest staff pack up their outdoorsy gear and a group of lucky and excited children and drive north to Camp Tawingo. The kids come back with deeper friendships and exciting stories of mud-creatures and overnight campouts and games of stealth, leadership and cooperation. Not only that, but the staff return looking renewed and energized in their new Tawingo sweaters.
I have never been to Camp Tawingo. It’s not for lack of wanting to go. And it’s not for lack of being “qualified”. At least once a year, about half of my grade 8 students are absent from my classroom and all real programming ceases because of Tawingo Week. It would make sense for me to be invited. And it’s not because I’m not skilled. I can canoe and I can use a map and compass, I can build a campfire and I know many songs, like “The Boy Named Sue”. I can even play the guitar. I can whittle useful implements out of wood and I can identify many northern Ontario plants and shrubbery. I can jump out of the mud and chase fleeing children, I can cross country ski by candle light and I can slide down a hill in a screaming mound of teachers on an inner tube.
Tawingo must be a magical place. I can only fathom the kinds of wonderful things that happen there. I recently heard a story of how some of the Tawingo Week programming back at Hillcrest diminished when a teacher who normally plans that stuff felt the need to go to Tawingo one last time before retirement. In and of itself, it’s not an impressive story, except that it is a recurring theme. My good friend Mattie-O is planning on switching schools next September and feels a compelling need to go back to camp one last time. Other friends, for various reasons, seem mesmerized by the freedom of being at camp. They will put off life milestones for this cause. The Tawingo cause. And I have trouble truly understanding only because I haven’t been afforded the opportunity to understand. And the lucky grown ups who get to go, phys. ed staff and retired staff and staff who are the Tawingo favourites, will say they are not an elite group. It's easy to say that when you are someone who has lived the miracle that is Tawingo.
Maybe I want a new quirky nickname. Maybe I want to be thrown off the dock in my clothes. Maybe I want to wear a chieftain with a Manitoba tribe’s headdress on my shirt pocket and eat a secret steak dinner. When will it be my turn?