Congratulations Queen Lauren, and welcome once again everyone. I’m Lady Susan Clinkenbeard, and I was here as a camper, CT and counselor for eleven of the best summers of my life. I am so happy to be back here with you to celebrate this special day and to participate in this wonderful ceremony for the Queen and her Council.
This is a very special ceremony in a very important year, the 85th anniversary of our camp, and of the Laurel Lake Chapter of the Order of the Fleur de Lis. What does that mean, exactly? It means that for 85 summers, young women and girls have been meeting in this same spot to share their experience of the outdoors, to form new friendships and strengthen old ones, to learn new skills, to learn about themselves and each other, to make memories together and to form a community. This is a community that stretches back through time. Look around you; you may see some campers whose mothers or aunts came here. You may be a second or third generation camper, and hopefully, you all may have the lucky experience of coming back to Fleur de Lis years later to see old friends again.
So what keeps Fleur de Lis going summer after summer, and what keeps all of us coming back? One thing that everyone points out, no matter what the timeframe, are the people, the friendships. But something else important is going on that allows us to reach out and connect through the years, and that is the way we keep traditions.
Some traditions are special and formal, the kind that you would describe in capital letters: Password, Colors, Evening Program and Evening Circle, Mid Birthday and Senior Banquet, Coronation and Campfire ceremony. But just as important are the everyday routine things we do together that make up the traditions of summer at Fleur de Lis: singing in the dining hall, tent inspection, chicken croquettes for dinner on the first night of camp, turning your buddy tag, the feeling that we have all been through when you forget to turn your buddy tag, announcements, the interruptions when the announcement is about the Queen. These traditions allow us to have shared experiences and to repeat them year after year, forming a bond that can last a whole lifetime.
Next weekend old campers will be back to attend reunion, and we will tell stories and share these same traditions once again. And let me tell you, when you stand in the circle at the end of the day to sing Peace and Taps, with your arms crossed over so you can’t swat the mosquitoes, it doesn’t matter how old you are or whether you’ve been here one year, or ten years, it’s a special feeling that doesn’t get old, as if we are reaching across the years with everyone who has ever come here and everyone yet to come, because these traditions belong to all of us. We all get to participate equally, whether we are juniors, mids, seniors, CTs, counselors or alumnae. What makes these traditions strong is our love for this place. These shared experiences build memories and friendships.
You are the most important link in this chain, because the things you learn together this summer, the old songs that you sing and the new ones that you add to the repertoire, are part of the living memory that you hand down to the people who come after you. The Junior becomes the Mid, and the ways that she learned to cooperate and be part of a team helps her when she is rehearsing and performing Mid Birthday. The Mid becomes a senior, and the skills she learned from taking swimming lessons every summer, allow her to prepare all summer to pass her advanced lifesaving test. The senior becomes a CT, and the leadership skills that she learned as a role model for younger campers allow her to teach a class and direct a squad. And the counselor-in-training becomes a counselor and gets to be called Lady, and all of the life experience she has gathered so far and the specific knowledge she has gained enable her to instruct an activity and be a leader for her campers. The Queen and Council play a very important role in this chain of tradition, because they are the ones who perform the ceremonies, and who represent the values that we try to live up to every time we pledge the trifold vow or say the Fleur de Lis prayer: “true in friendship, wise in counsel, and devoted to the high ideals of this Order.” We promise them our allegiance and support. They are doing this for all of us, and it is a big responsibility.
Every time you sing a song to ward off a rainy day or count forks to set a table, you are doing something that has been done by hundreds of girls before you and that I very dearly hope will be done by girls after you for another eighty-five years and more. I wish for each of you another part of that tradition, that you have a happy summer, full of friendship and new experiences and learning and adventure.
-Lady Susan Clinkenbeard