Monday, September 28, 2009

A Waste of Good Cookies

This coming weekend, October 2-4, they are having a Quaker Lake staff reunion that we will not be able to attend. In honor of this gathering of some of my favorite people, every post this week will have a Quaker Lake connection. It's my little way of participating in the festivities!

Those of you who have been following along with this blog for the past month will be aware of the name Carl Semmler (at right- he's the groom! Also in this picture are Beth, Tammy, Donna, Steve, Martha and Alan from previous posts.). Carl and I grew up going to school together; his brother Steve was my best friend for many years; he worked as a lifeguard at QLC for several summers; and he, Alan Brown and I took a cross country trip in May of 1979. He has been featured in several stories here already, including his work on the infamous Project Myrtle. Today I want to tell you a few more.

When we were in high school our New Garden Friends youth group attended a gathering of local Quaker youth groups called a Quarterly Meeting. We knew almost no one else there, and realized quickly that some of the other groups were a good bit more "religious" than we were. After some gathering time, we were seated in a circle, with the groups sitting together. The leader said we were going to go around the circle and introduce ourselves, and from where they started there were maybe 7 or 8 youth who would go before our first representative, Carl. The first person began by telling their name, church and the exact day and time they had been "saved." This was not a word we had in our spiritual vocabulary. We talked about "walking in the Light" and being on a "spiritual journey," not about THE day we met Jesus. As each person followed the same pattern, we grew more uncomfortable and wondered what Carl would say. When his turn arrived, he kept it simple: "I'm Carl Semmler from New Garden, and I play basketball." The pressure was immediately off the rest of us, and we were very grateful to Carl for his courage to say only what he knew to be true at the time.
Carl was a master prank player at QLC (although he and Mark Farlow were the recipients of maybe the greatest prank ever, when the Dentiste twins and Emily Ballus went in their room in the lodge and stringed it, making it look like one of those laser systems thieves have to avoid in the movies. They then put molasses on the string and hung extremely stinky lake weed all over the room. It was a classic!). One summer Carl had decided to try a nasty and daring prank on one of the female staff members who used a shampoo that was dark and gooey- much like pancake syrup! He thought he would replace her shampoo with syrup and see what would happen. Unfortunately for Carl, this was the summer the "no wasteful pranks rules" went into effect, and so he could not use syrup. He spent all summer trying to make his own, boiling down tree bark to get sap and hoping for a miracle. He did not get one, but he did manage to ruin a perfectly good pot from the kitchen in the process. Ah, what might have been...

Carl, Alan and I began our trip out west by leaving Greensboro for Chatanooga and Carl's Uncle Ronnie's house. We left in my Dad's Honda Civic wagon that we called Clyde, and we were loaded down with camping gear, luggage and a tin of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies given to us by Martha Ratledge. For reasons I no longer remember, we went from NC to TN by way of Atlanta. We hit Atlanta around afternoon rush hour, and Alan was driving and Carl was asleep in the back seat. He awoke to find us in the middle of a traffic jam, and greeted us with the following words: "No rush guys, but I need to find a bathroom." Less than a minute later he was throwing up all over the back seat. Desperate for damage control, I dumped Martha's cookies on the floor and handed him the tin to barf in- but it was no use. We finally worked our way off of the interstate and to a gas station, where we cleaned up the car- but the smell was unbearable. The first day of a month long trip and Carl had totaled the interior of Clyde. Lacking anything else (and apparently common sense as well) we used my Gillette Foamy Lemon-Lime shaving creme on the vinyl seats to try and mask the smell. The result was a smell never before or since found in this world or any other. We made it to Chatanooga and begged Uncle Ronnie to keep Carl, but he refused, and so we carried on without further incident.

My theme for this week will be simple- Quaker Lake Camp is a very ordinary place that has always been made special by extraordinary people. It is also a place where people have been moved by God, whether they are on a "spiritual journey" or have been "saved." Carl Semmler is one of those extraordinary people...even if he did make us waste some perfectly good cookies!

Because of Jesus,

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