Savoring Sounds of Moss Hollow

Ebony, left, Chastity, Isaiah and Hassan Mack have spent the week at Camp Moss Hollow.
Ebony, left, Chastity, Isaiah and Hassan Mack have spent the week at Camp Moss Hollow. (By Alice Reid For The Washington Post)
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Alice Reid
Friday, June 27, 2008

By this evening, camp songs should be bouncing off the walls of Alimorris Mack's Anacostia apartment. Four members of the extended Mack family return today from a week at Camp Moss Hollow, and if it's anything like last year, they will be singing at the top of their lungs.

"They come home and sing those songs all the time," Mack said recently. In fact, over several summers she has absorbed most of the lyrics herself.

Her daughter Chastity, 9, leapt up from her seat in the apartment living room to demonstrate.

"Watermelon! Chicken! Grits and peas! Moss Hollow's got a lotta mouths to feed!" she belted.

Her cousins nodded and joined in.

Last week, the day before the Mack contingent boarded a school bus for the 60-mile trek to Moss Hollow, they were gleeful at the prospect. Mack's nephew, Hassan, 10, was already packed.

Soon they would be free of the city, sleeping in cabins with only tree frogs to listen to at night. They would be swimming, fishing and canoeing in a small pond and hiking up trails that wind through the camp's 400 acres. Camp Moss Hollow -- run by a century-old charity, Family and Child Services of Washington -- exists for youngsters who need a summer break from city life.

Mack, a single mom who works at a bakery making pies, gets scholarship help for her children to attend. But one niece and her 14-year-old brother, whose mom, Mack said, is "dealing with some life issues," attend Moss Hollow through donations from readers like you.

With the trip to camp coming fast, the children were so eager to talk about Moss Hollow that they took to raising their hands to make sure a visitor got everything.

Mack's niece, Ebony, 9, wanted to talk about last year's treasure hunt.

"We had to find a daddy longlegs, a frog, a crayfish, a snake skin!" she said as Chastity dashed into the bedroom to retrieve a gold-painted rock their team had won for the hunt.

And then certain themes began to emerge in the conversation, such as snakes. There are snakes at Camp Moss Hollow -- harmless black snakes -- but they make an impression.

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