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FDL Directors Past & Present Share About Community

Lady Liz Young – FDL Director 1977-2005

What is the FDL Community and what does it mean to me. Where do I start and how do I put it into written words. For those of you who know me, you know that I would be much happier sitting around the Writing Room table with a group of you, having a discussion about the FDL Community and what makes it special to each of us. Since that is not possible, I will attempt to put a few thoughts onto paper.

To me the FDL Community is all about the people with whom I have spent most of my life; some as mentors, some as peers, and all as part of my “family”. When I arrived at Fleur de Lis as an awkward and shy Mid in 1961 I found myself accepted by a very welcoming community. FDL’s caring community continues to welcome and include the shy, awkward Mid, the new Junior who is away from home for the first time, the girl who is the only new camper in the Senior Field, and a counselor who is arriving in the USA for the first time. Each summer this new group comes together in Fitzwilliam experiencing longstanding traditions, creating new traditions, and building a community of people with shared experiences. And this group always builds life long friendships.

Each summer’s new group becomes part of a bigger community since some members of the new group are part of groups from previous summers. And some of this summer’s new group will be the core of next year’s new group. The FDL community continues to grow in numbers each year as we share common experiences such as singing the same songs in the Dining Hall, finding your favorite spot at camp to sit with friends, experiencing the smells of camp, achieving the same awards in an activity, acting for the first time in a camp play, or living in the same cabin as another family member. The list of these common experiences is endless but very special to each one of us who is a member of the FDL community. These common experiences bind us together as a community.

In my observations, this community has become a very special part of each of us. I know it has for me. It is a group that people often turn to in times of joy, in times of need, and everything in between. Spending time with any part of the FDL Community usually puts a smile on my face and always warms my heart. The hard and soft skills that we all learn at Fleur de Lis have made us an exceptional community. It is a community that I cherish. I can not imagine my life without it!

Lady Di Foster – FDL Director 2007

When I think about the Fleur de Lis community, I immediately picture those places around camp where people gather. I think of the porches of camp… I picture people sitting in the rocking chairs on the Farmhouse porch while a crowd gathers to play roof ball. I picture the more mellow vibe of the small infirm porch where you can watch the camp world from behind the blueberry bushes while a group of campers gathers around the porch swing on the larger one. I picture the dining hall porch and all the activity as campers wait for the meal to begin.

I think of the busy areas where people gather as well. The waterfront as everyone readies for class- hanging towels on the horses, turning buddy tags, hauling surfboards into the water, readying the sailboats. I think of the fields during rec time where campers and staff are clustered in small and large groups – lounging on camp beds, jumping around the tetherball pole, strolling to and from the showers, running around the field involved in some game or joke. I think of meals in the dining hall and EPs in the barn. And, of course, I think of the camp road and the streams of girls and young women headed to their next place, arm in arm, hand in hand.

When I think about the Fleur de Lis community, I immediately hear the laughter. It’s always been true that you don’t laugh anywhere else the way you laugh when you’re at camp. We laugh with abandon. We laugh with utter joy. We laugh with our whole bodies and our whole hearts. We laugh over those moments that wouldn’t be nearly as funny anywhere else or with anyone else. All those places I picture around camp, they resonate with the sound of laughter.

I picture these places and hear this laughter because Fleur de Lis is a place of connection. At the foundation of all the activities, all the fun, all the new experiences, what holds it all together is that we are connecting with one another. We are growing connections that will last a lifetime. Our connections support us through the toughest of times in our lives and surround us during our most celebrated moments – both at camp and in our outside lives.

In these days of social distancing, I find myself relying heavily on these connections. I know I can still laugh together with my camp friends just as if we were walking the road or sitting in the rockers. We can support and surround one another. And, until we are able to gather at Fleur de Lis once again, I can close my eyes and picture these places at camp. I can hear the laughter in my imagination. And, I can feel connected.

Lady Lexy Heatley – FDL Director 2008 – 2010

Fleur de Lis recently held its 90th celebration and it is hard to believe that I have been actively involved with Fleur de Lis for 40+ years of them. There are a few who do rival this, however. I have experienced just about every role within this amazing organization with the exception of being a junior camper and it appears to be a little late for that. When asked to participate with other directors in this article, I thought this will be easy. And like that I accepted the challenge and I was sure that I would be able to impart a story, an anecdote, or even some wisdom.

And in a moment the world changed and quickly our live communities had become virtual. Before I knew it, FDL@Home surfaced. It was well designed, inclusive, accessible, fun, thoughtful, and much needed by many. Soon I began to experience the daily virtual Password and that’s when I realized this wasn’t going to be an easy task. As I listened to daily lessons provided by FDL women who span the decades, I concluded that I alone did not hold the answer in any way to what makes Fleur de Lis an exceptional community. Over 90 years the values and beliefs of Fleur de Lis have successfully been shared and are alive within the women of FDL many of whom started their camp journey as little girls. Each of the Passwords described what it was that they had learned at camp that has made them able to survive this uncertain time. Their messages referenced structure, silliness, laughter, acceptance, support, friendships, and community. If you have not heard these messages, I strongly encourage you to listen to them. It will become evident that FDL continues to do its job to develop strong women who are grounded, connected, and who are of good character. When asked what is great about the FDL community, it cannot be based on my knowledge but rather that the proof is in the pudding.

Lady Carrie Kashawlic – FDL Director 2011 – 2018

Lady Sarah Castro sent a note asking me to write something for Laurel Leaves. I was excited as I miss camp, but truthfully, I have struggled to put feelings into words. She is receiving this a day late – and for those of you who know me, that’s a pretty unusual behavior. My struggle is real – I missed a deadline!

It’s not that I cannot write, but let’s face it I’m no Lady Kate Gladstone or Lady Lindsay Heller who seem to write so well – Lady Kate with her powerful camp essays and Lady Lindsay who just published a book of short stories.

And I’m no Lady Matoaka Kipp or Lady Di Foster, each of whom are blessed with such empathy that one cannot but feel empowered to conquer life when in their presence. In stepping away from Fleur de Lis, I realize how much their strengths have taught me, and enriched my life to make me a better person.

That’s what camp really is, the opportunity to get to know people. To interact for a season or a lifetime. The opportunity to learn from others and to share of yourself with them.

Camp is a place of great joy, freedom, exploration, growth, smiles, laughter, tears, friendships, new activities, successes, failures, creativity, tradition, fears that blossom into resiliency, self-confidence and love. But all of this is nothing without the people of camp.

When I think about Fleur de Lis, it is synonymous with New England and Fitzwilliam. I had never been to New England before arriving to Fleur de Lis. The day I interviewed Lady Libby Williams sat with me on Farmhouse porch (I was early) making small talk. She asked about what states made up New England; I got it wrong, and she deftly informed me that New York was not included. I had never experienced New England before, or the glorious summer sunrises at 5am. I miss them a lot. It’s almost as if God knew that our time at camp is too short and we need as much daylight as possible to make memories and friends.

As the director, I saw much of my role to be in creating a culture and community where young adults focus on sharing their skills and talents to our campers. It was a pleasure to get to know campers and families year over year; that was unique to Fleur de Lis as many of the camping programs I had previously known were only a week in length. The level of connection was different. My childhood camp friends were from when I was a CT/staff member…not from when I was eight years old sitting on the steps of Cabin A as my niece, Emboo, gets to do.

While to many Fleur de Lis may be summer seasons only, it was my every day for eight years. My memories of camp have a lot to do with the Board of Directors, professional staff, and Farmhouse teams in planning for the ten weeks of summer. I spent 42-weeks a year working hard with them to plan and deliver an intentionally sensational summer.

Memories of Farmhouse, both the space and the team bind me to camp. There is an after-camp moment with Ladies Sarah Castro, Hannah Weiner, Karin Strickland, and Sir Richard sitting in rocking chairs, looking at the lake on the day after camp was done-done. The relaxation of a successful season, great partners, peaceful camp beauty, and coffee. Coffee and chocolate in front of the pellet stove during the winter talking camp and everything else with Sir Richard is a memory I cherish.

Roofball. I think Lady Bridget Scollan invented it, I think. It’s a version of the basketball game where you try to avoid earning a letter to spell a word. The word, of course, is ROOFBALL. The game is played with a beach ball that gets batted up onto the Farmhouse roof, then when it descends the next person must thwack it back onto the roof. I wasn’t much of a player, but I did revel in the joy and laughter of everyone who did.

One morning after Password, walking down the camp road Lady Elana Ramos was wearing pin striped overalls. Not just any pin striped overalls, but maize and blue pin striped overalls. I was walking with Ladies Amy Bates and Annie Brown and making comments to about how I preferred scarlet and grey. That scarlet and grey is such a better color combination. They humored me but didn’t get the (not so) subtle references to the mid-western rivalry. Lady Elena did, she smiled and answered back with a University of Michigan cheer. I had to give the -IO ending myself after a long awkward pause to my OH- retort.

Much of my time was served with Lady Jane Lawson as President. She and I both lived in New Hampshire; the monthly Board Meetings occurred outside of Boston. I’d meet her at the Rindge Market Basket and we’d drive together. While it may be a small thing, I really missed her and the joy of this time together when she retired from the Board. It was full of conversations about everything – life. And I can never forget her gracious kindness when I actually vomited in her car. It was awful, and SO embarrassing. But ever a Fleur de Lis Lady, she was gracious and understanding.

I fondly remember the little porch and rocking chairs behind the large blueberry bush at the Infirm. Lady Cathie McGuirk and I would sit, rock, and relax during the summer while watching the comings and goings of life on the camp road. Friends running up to meet each other, walking arm and arm or holding hands. Laughter and songs, little bits of conversations overheard. We were slightly hidden away to be an observer of the tiny, ubiquitous interactions that happen on the camp road. And then as Circle launched, that same spot became a daily joy sharing early morning coffee with Ladies Ruth Keogh, Toni LaMonica, and Ellen Dezieck, and others. No better way to start a Circle day!

I remember Ladies Sarah Heller and Megan Madden, who were alumnae visitors readily stepping up to help when needed. And all of Farmhouse as we struggled to eliminate the dreaded louse from camp. It was weeks of sitting on the Infirm porch with patient campers, necks craned as they grabbed bites of breakfast while we stroked their hair. It was Farmhouse porch after lunch, daily, as we checked and re-checked to confirm the extinction of the elusive tiny beast. In the midst of…well, EEEWWW, there was joy in small talk conversations as we all just took care of each other.

I am always slightly jealous of individuals who can express emotion publicly. I am not so good at it, it’s not that I don’t feel, I just find it hard to be public about it. There are many, many private tears or an excited call to share news with a friend. However, the superhero supper that all of camp planned was a moment of uncontrollable emotion. Such love and immense sadness all wrapped into one moment for me. It was classic camp as I walked into the dining hall to see everyone dressed in tights, swimsuits and towel-capes. It is an image that created overwhelming emotion and still brings a smile to my face when I remember it. You are Fleur de Lis. I miss you; I cannot wait to see you again when Emboo returns to 120 Howeville Road.

Lady MJ Parry – FDL Director 2019 – current

Community. Google the definition and you’ll find phrases such as; “a group of people living in the same place” and “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals”. But the one that most resonates with me is; “a group of people that care about each other and feel that they belong together”. Now that really captures the experience I cherish at camp!

There are so many big and little ways community comes to life at Fleur de Lis… in the fields and activities, during crazy EPs and well-loved traditions, in the moments of walking arm and arm up the camp road, giggling under the shade of a tree, or being comforted by a dear friend in a time of sadness. I’m grateful that my fellow directors have reflected on so many heart-touching examples of community. I’d like to add my own simple example… singing together.

Singing together evokes a magical experience of deep connection between people and requires true listening and deep attention to others. It builds a bond among a group by creating something special together. Everyone can participate. It brings happiness and soothes pain. Singing together links those who have come before us to those who will come after us as we bring to life again and again the music that has been a part of camp for 90 years.

Remember singing, stomping and clapping in the Dining Hall – don’t these memories bring you joy, and the vision of friends gathered around? Or, how about Evening Circle with singing together Peace and Taps as the sun set on our beautiful camp? Perhaps this even brings back a feeling like everything was right in your world.

A short story – I came to Fleur de Lis for an interview in the summer of 2018. After touring camp and several conversations, it was time for lunch. My tour guide said, as we approached the Dining Hall; “Just so you know, we sing a lot here – I hope it won’t be overwhelming”. Nope. To the contrary, this was exactly what I was hoping for at FDL. I loved the welcome song, the spontaneous jumping up and singing, the great energy and fun happening all around me. This is exactly the magical feeling I wanted in a camp! After lunch, I had the opportunity to talk with some counselors. One of the moments I treasure from that conversation was when I said; “The way I see it is that music is the soundtrack of camp”. Their response – the nodding of heads, smiles all around, and even a teary eye or two convinced me that singing together truly was a highly valued experience that was a daily part of life at Fleur de Lis Camp – a place I could feel at home.

Singing together – such a simple thing, but one that creates a timeless connection for all of us who are a part of Fleur de Lis. This is community.

A special thank you to our FDL Directors!

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