The Ceremony of Tap Out
After a sudden burst of rain in the afternoon, the sun broke through the clouds just in time to dry the grass for the evening’s activity, Tap Out. For those new to Camp Mishawaka lingo, Tap Out is the name of the “ritual” for selecting camp teams every summer. The name comes from the tap campers get when their team leaders, the CITs, run around the inside of the half-circle of girls taping them to follow and become members of a new group, this year either the Splinter Cats or the Snolligosters. Forming teams every year is another way to create belonging. In girls camp, we talk about belonging to your cabin group, belonging to your big/little sister family, and belonging to your team. Connecting is intentional at camp, sometimes formal, and sometimes serendipitous.
Tap Out makes my heart swell every year. I get a huge lump in my throat as I watch the CITs, our oldest campers and technically “counselors in training,” as they arrive silently at the docks, paddling canoes, greeting each member of the opposite team, passing under flaming torches, then silently leading the rest of the girls up to the Park to form their half circle. The drums beat, a CIT from one team runs the circle, tapping the youngest first, then leading them back to the team’s line. Aside from the drumbeat, there is no real noise. Counselors signal which girl should get tapped next. The girls help each other find their way to the line, and the evening continues until everyone is selected. The CITs’ faces are serious, anxious to do this right, remembering all the CITs before them, wanting to pass along the same thrill of a tap on both shoulders, creating for another the sense of joy and belonging that was created for them.
This event is a passage, and a pretty clear one at that, a coming of age moment. The girls, many of whom I’ve known since they were little, have been with us long enough to reach this moment, the misty place between childhood and becoming an adult. They have been our summer daughters, and soon they will be leaving home. Our hearts were full of pride, just as they ached knowing this would be their last summer. I guess that’s why we work so hard to make sure they have as much fun possible while encouraging them to spread their wings.
Mary Jane Curran,
Girls Camp Director