USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘bedtime ritual’
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Camp Cheley Traditions

Every night before we go to bed, we have a friendship circle.

Everyone in the unit stands together in the courtyard and we all hook arms or just put our arms on each other’s shoulders Wait, no. Wait, yeah. I guess different units do different things but that’s what we did.

When you’re done singing, we say goodnight and all bow and leave the circle.

So one of the songs is called, I See the Moon. And when you come to camp you kind of just hear what everyone else is singing and you learn it, they don’t write it down or teach you or anything.

And it goes like this (sings):

I see the moon and the moon sees me

The moon sees somebody I’d like to see

So God bless the moon & God bless me

and God bless the somebody I’d like to see.

And then we whisper the peoples’ names we’d like to say goodnight to. So like “Goodnight, Mom.” “Goodnight, Dad.”

Camp Cheley is not a religious camp but the owners are religious. I went back for six summers and even going to camp usually stays within generations, too. Like my best friend is from camp, you know Abby.

She’s what we call a “cheleybaby” because her parents met at Camp. We call those “chomances” you know ‘cus “Cheley” and “romances”.

context of the performance:

The informant told about this ritual and sang that moon song to a table of friends, including myself, at Monday night dinner.

thoughts on the performance:

It was clear from the informant’s delivery how second nature all of this seemed to her from her repeat camp experiences. She even sort of swayed along when she sang the song, without a hint of embarrassment.

general
Musical

Tadpole Song

I think I’ll eat a tadpole,

maybe even a bug.

I’ve got some worms down in the garden

that I recently dug.

You said you didn’t love me,

you told me it was true,

so darling this is really, really,

what I’m gonna do.

 

I think I’ll eat a tadpole,

then I’ll lay down and die

and you’ll be sorry,

oh so sorry,

that you told me goodbye.

 

So if you really love me,

just tell me with a hug

before I eat a tadpole or a bug.

I really mean it,

before I eat a tadpole or a bug.

 

The informant was my father, a 49-year-old engineer who currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but who grew up in the area surrounding Austin, Texas. The song is one that his mother used to sing to him and his siblings when they were little. The informant says his mother had a beautiful singing voice and would either sing hymns or songs like this before the children would go to bed because she was always in charge of this activity. He says it is interesting to him because “it must have come from some popular pop music of some age” and he “almost suspect[s] that it’s a fragment, but it was passed down to us as a whole,” “almost a vignette.” He also heard it from his older sister as she was learning to sing it for her children. He performs it because it reminds him of his mother, but also because “it’s just, it’s the cutest concept of a song . . . you know, it’s a child’s concept of love combined with a child’s concept of mortality. Uh, you know, you left me, I’m gonna basically hold my breath and die if you don’t come back. You know, and eating a tadpole is going to kill you, you know, it’s just all, I just love the construction and the cuteness of it.” He sees it as a way of teaching children that breaking somebody’s heart is a big deal. He also admits that the whole thing is “a little twisted.”

 

This song was collected while I was home for Spring Break and performed in my living room. It was interesting to me because my father also used to sing it to me and my sister when we were children. It’s a song with a nice tune that seems harmless, but it has lyrics that are actually pretty dark. I remember it as being sad when I was much younger, but looking at it now it strikes me that the subject of the song is suicide, even if the narrator is not going to die from eating a tadpole. I think the song is mainly meant to be cute and entertaining, but I also agree somewhat with the informant’s assessment that the song is about teaching children the effect their actions and words can have on another person.

 

A version of this song was performed and released (“I Think I’ll Eat a Tadpole”) by Sue Thompson in 1966. Thompson’s version has the above version as its chorus and additional verses. While the chorus is recognizable as the informant’s version, many of the words have been changed and the overall tone of the song is different. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHnlZfJAHT0

Thompson, Sue. "I Think I'll Eat a Tadpole." The Country Side of Sue Thompson. Ridgeway Music, 1966. CD.
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