Author Archives: Grace Carballo

The Blue Kerchief Ceremony

At camp, we have this thing called the BK Ceremony,  for “Blue Kerchief”. It’s on the third day of the term, I think it’s the third day, on a Sunday, and what it is is we come up with this thing called, “The Code of Living”.  So for that what we do is we come up with words that we want to live by- words like “genuine”, “compassion”, “brave”, “indelible”. You know how I want to get that tattoo of “indelible”? That’s from camp, it was in our Code.

So, yeah, we decide as a unit what we want the Code to be. So on the first Sunday we all go to the Buddy Ring, which is a nook in between these mountains and we sing all these songs. I think they change every year, they’re not set in stone.

And then the counselors present the BKs to the campers. So it’s when you wear this kerchief, the Blue Kerchief, you’re living by the Code. And if you break the Code, you get your Kerchief taken away.

What happens if you get it taken away?

Well then you don’t get to wear it to Chapel and everyone can see you and knows you broke the code. (She laughs).

So the ceremony is they tie the BKs in this special knot, a friendship knot… (to other friend listening and laughing) Shut up!  And yeah, the counselors put them over us and give us a hug. And then as cabins, we got up as cabins and then we all get in a huddle, you know like a sports huddle, and then the counselors pump us up for the term and then we sit down again.

Can you tell me more about the camp?

Yeah, so the BK ceremony is by unit and there are 60 girls or guys per unit, 4 units of boys and 4 units of girls. The units are by age and you can be 8-17 at Camp Cheley. It’s in Colorado. It’s in Estes Park, voted number one small town in America!

When did it start?

I have no idea. Camp was founded in 1921, so probably around then.

Why has it kept going all these years?

Probably because it’s a beautiful ceremony, and the Code of Living is super important, and it’s you know, a physical reminder of it.

Context of the Performance:

The informant told her camp rituals to a table of our friends during Monday night dinner. We knew she had gone to camp, because she has talked about it before, but this is the first time I ever asked her in depth questions, which she was very excited to share. The informant is very passionate about her camp and plans to work there this summer.

My thoughts on the piece:

It was interesting to see how excited the informant was to explain her camp experience, another example of the distinction between being inside the group verses outside of it. She was defensive when another person listening laughed at part of the ritual, which shows how much she believes in the sacredness of these traditions.

It also is interesting how the shame of having your kerchief taken away, which is largely symbolic, is enough to keep these kids living by the code.

Giving You My Strength

My mom started this junior or sophomore year of high school I think. I always get super nervous, you know, for like a big test or for volleyball and what she did is, she grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me violently and said, “This is me giving you my strength!”

She does it to all of us. Just the other day, I guess, she did it to Tommy, and he goes, “That’s not your strength, you’re just shaking my shoulders!” (she laughs). Oh, Tommy.

I told my roommate, Kayla, about it and she texted me it before my accounting exam. She goes, “This is me giving you my strength.”

I think my mom made it up.

I’ve offered my services to a few people here and there and they always laugh it off.

But, yeah, I think it works. It always does make me feel better, to be honest.

You know, I always thought if I ever got a tattoo, it would be of that. “This is me giving you my strength.” I’m probably not going to get a tattoo, though…I’ll definitely do it for my kids.

context of the performance: 

This description of a family custom before a big event from mother to child was described in a one-on-one conversation between the informant and the collector. We are close friends, which is why she does not explain necessarily who the different characters are in her telling. Tommy is her youngest sibling.

thoughts on the piece:

Though this is a relatively new family custom, it demonstrates a maternal selflessness and concern for her children. As the informant mentioned, what started as something specific to her, the eldest daughter, has become a customary practice. The different children’s perceptions of it is interesting, as well. The informant believes in it so much that she has tried to share it with others and new people in her life say it to her before major events, still. Her younger brother is much more skeptical.

“It’s better to look down at the grass that up at it.”

Right off the bat, the first thing that comes to mind is my dad. He always says, “It’s better to be looking down at the grass than up at it.” Anytime I ask him how he’s doing…or uh, how his day is, he always says that. “It’s better to be looking down at the grass than up at it.” and then usually, “best day of my life.”

“Where do you think he got it from?”

Honestly, I’m not 100% sure. I think he might have come up with it on his own. He’s really good with words, actually and cute little phrases and speeches. He made a beautiful toast at my aunt and uncle’s 25th anniversary…I’m excited for him to speak at my wedding.

Oh, another thing he says a lot is “Savor the moment.” Like for any big mile stone in my life, when those are going down, or for my cousins, too. He tells us “Savor the moment”.

And when he gives me cards, he gives me cards whenever I go back to college after spring or Christmas break, he writes that in there. And there’s always money in the cards, which is nice!

The first time he said that to me was when my volleyball team, remember that, was in the state championship and I guess it sort of just progressed from there.

Context of the Performance:

This performance was delivered during a one on one conversation between the informant and me. I asked her if she had any proverbs her parents or grandparents always says and right away she came up with the one about it being better to  look down at the grass.

Thoughts on the piece:

I think any expressions that recognize our own mortality and sort of show an appreciation for life are worth repeating. The informant detailed how her father uses it very frequently, even when just asked how he is doing or how his day is going. Paired with his regular use of another proverb “Savor the moment,” it is clear the informant and her father share an appreciation for each day.

A quick search of the first proverb online did not yield any exact matches, so it is possible this particular proverb is unique to their family.

“May Your Giving Hand Never Fail”

(in an Irish accent, imitating her Papa’s voice) “May your giving hand never fail.”

My Papa said this all the time and people didn’t really know what to do with it. I think he just said it to anyone who was generous, but like waitresses especially. So, they weren’t really being generous, they were just…doing their job.

I guess there was this one waitress, I wasn’t there this time, but she was like, “What’d you say?” and uh, my dad had to explain and she was like “I like that, I’m gonna start using it!”

I don’t know where he got it from, but he said it whenever he told me this story about this woman, and he describes her as a woman with a “good giving hand”.

So Papa, he was a Pace bus driver, so you know how they kind of have to stick to a schedule? Well this one day, it was the dead of winter, he saw this nun running after the bus and he just decided to wait for her. And she was flabbergasted he waited for her. And (in Irish accent again) he said, “Aw yeah, it’s too cold to be waitin’ for another bus” and she was so so thankful for him doing that that she ended up telling the hospital she worked at to let him have breakfast there everyday. He dropped her off and she said wait right here and ran in and I guess asked them and came out and told him to come for breakfast before his shift…  and so he did. For years, he just started his morning there everyday with free breakfast (laughs). She probably didn’t think he would actually take her up on it.

And every time he told it to me he would say “oh yes, she had a good giving hand”.

context of the performance:

The informant described this proverb and the following story in a one on one conversation, when asked if she had any family proverbs. She always does a very good Irish accent impression for her grandfather, who came to the United States from Ireland as an adult. He passed away a few months before this collection, so it was definitely a little nostalgic, as well.

thoughts on the performance:

It is always interesting how strangers respond to older people and their sayings, especially those with accents. It was hard to capture in writing, but when the informant described the waitresses reaction, she was sort of wary of her grandpa and almost rude in her response, until her dad clarified it for him. Especially the way the informant says it, in the vernacular of her grandfather, this proverb definitely sounds like a number of similar Irish blessings I have heard before.