The last week of August was magic.
My mom and I took my oldest to New York City where she spent five days learning how to rock and roll at The Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls at the Urban Assembly School of Music and Art on Flatbush Avenue Ext. in Brooklyn.
Imagine a ten-year-old girl from the burbs of Pittsburgh driving across the Manhattan Bridge, and realizing her camp was in the big, tan building at the base of the bridge, the one with five fully-armed police officers and the burly-swearing-loud construction crew in front. And then going in and being the only one in the room of about 120 girls and grown-ups who had never been on a subway. It would have been intimidating for a 50-year old, but that isn't the nature of Willie Mae (or my kid).
There really isn't anything to compare this camp to. It is a brilliant mixture of joy, enthusiasm, unbridled girl power and a serious commitment to music, rock and fun. The incredibly talented, enthusiastic, gifted coaches were - every, single one of them - totally dedicated to empowering girls, to teaching them about their instruments, about creativity, expression, playing your heart out, about diversity and about the girls accepting themselves and each other. Camp included sessions on songwriting, recording, the history of women and rock (the camp is named for Willie Mae Big Mama Thornton, one of the early women of rock) and image and identity. They also learned their instruments, had band practice and watched live performances from accomplished women rockers.
Isn't it something you wish you had when you were little?
Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls - you could see it in so many of the little, beautiful faces - is a camp where girls can be who they are and who they want to be.
There is no other way to describe the experience other than I know it was the best week of my daughter's life, which is something I won't - and she certainly won't - ever forget.
Lauren Lancaster of The New York Times took some amazing photographs and posted some of them on the NYT website. The pictures are a testament to the dazzling week. My little girl is in there a couple times.
Here's one of my daughter and two camp "best friends" (and another of the final performance):
At the end of the week, the girls, who had formed into 15 different bands, performed at the Highline Ballroom in Chelsea. My daughter's band, The Screaming Stripes sang a song called "Has Osama Been Forgotten?" with a line that says, "If you see Osama, tell him to watch his ass!" Yeah, nothing like 10 year olds with bass guitars, a stage, groovy lighting, microphones and all the gutsy, powerful goodness that brings out.
You could just see the reservoirs of self confidence filling up as the girls played to a screaming, adoring audience. I had the immediate sense that it was something many, if not most, of the girls will tap into as they meet challenges this coming year. It was a wonder to behold.
To top it off, there we were - my mother, my daughter and me - all of us the oldest of our respective generations, all of us enchanted by and treasuring the week in our own ways for different and similar reasons.
Everyone needs a Willie Mae-type week in their lives, even if it is just once, because you're never the same after. And that is what the journey is all about. My daughter, I noticed, is walking a little taller, and for that matter, I just might be too.