“Grandma, were there any camp traditions that you loved that have been discontinued?”
Sarah was interviewing my mom again last night. This time she was recording it for a retrospective that the camp is doing. They’re trying to get oldtimers to share memories.
“Well, that’s an interesting question. And you’re probably going to be surprised by my answer. One thing I really liked at camp that I know they don’t do anymore is hold chapel services on Sundays. You know, I was raised in a pretty secular household. We didn’t really go to any kind of services, but at camp, I really liked “Chapel.”
“We would sit outside at the boys’ camp and we always sang really pretty hymns. I don’t really remember the words, but I always thought they sounded beautiful…of course not because of yours truly. I never could carry a tune.”
“That sounds nice, Grandma. Was there anything else you remember about it?”
“Well, I remember that it was a beautiful spot. We sat in a small clearing in the shade of giant pine trees. It was really very peaceful. I do remember one sermon. Actually, it’s funny, I saw my friend Carol a few years back…well, a few years, it was probably 15 years ago, and we both remembered that same sermon.”
“Do you remember what they said?”
“Well, it was fifty, no sixty, no seventy-five years ago, so I don’t really remember all the words, but I do remember the idea. It was a young counselor from the boys’ camp who gave the sermon. He told the story of one of the boys at camp when he was a camper, and the boy had a uhh, what do you call it… a cloth thing…a sampler, that’s it. He had a sampler that he hung over his bunk. The boy was very well-liked. He always treated everyone well. He was very kind and courteous. Anyway, he had this sampler, and it said, “I am third.” That’s all it said. The other boys in the cabin had no idea what it meant, but this counselor who was telling the story says that at the end of their summer together, when they were packing up, he asked the boy what that sampler meant when it said, “I am third.” Now this very kind and considerate boy said that it was something he always wanted to remember. He said it meant this, ‘God is first, the other guy is second, and I am third.’
“I was only 15 years old, and, as I said, I was not really religious, but I’ve always remembered that chapel service.”
I’ve been watching other slicers experiment with golden shovel poems, where they take a line of text from a story or poem and use those words as the first words or last words of each of the new poem’s lines. I decided to give it a try. It was going to be a separate exercise, but when I noticed that the line I’d pulled had the word “third” in it, it seemed to connect well with story the above. Thanks to fellow slicer, Fran for encouraging me to try this form.
I Am Third
A golden shovel poem inspired by a line from Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
The boy’s motto, “I am
Key to his kindness.
She stowed away what the counselor
Said as he shared
A sermon in nature’s chapel, a
Sip of sublime in a grove
Of pines. Wise words outlasting
Old traditions, echo forward from a bygone
Note: The service my mom recalled took place in 1945, when my mom was 15 years old. She’s nearing 91, now. I am quite certain that in the 1970s when football star, Gale Sayers made “I am Third” more famous as the title of his autobiography, my mom was not aware.