When Things Come Full-Circle

It's a cheeky example of divine humor, really, that I ended up in working in the camp industry.  When I was a little girl, my parents took time out of their summer and volunteered for week-long chunks at a youth camp a few hours from our home.  They'd take my sister and I along with them, enrolling a very happy Renee in the current session and attempting to enroll me.  What I mean is that I would start my week in a cabin on the hill by drudgingly taking a bottom bunk somewhere in a hut full of other 9-year old inmates, er, campers.

Then I would



I was that kid.  I'd last maybe a day or two, and only that long because my two teenage counselors had the patience and willpower of a couple of hearing-impaired elementary school bus drivers.  But even they could only hold it together for so long, and after day two of my desperate, home-sick blubbering, they'd escort me down to whatever farmhouse room my folks were inhabiting and I'd resume my week, having not only ruined the first two days of my counselors' session, but now ruining the whole experience for my parents, because at that point they were no longer alone.

And I in my current state, would be the worst kind of company.

My memories of my time as a camp drifter are few and fading, but I haven't lost them altogether yet.  There was this set of metal pipes that was hammered into the ground in an upside-down U shape, and I remember swinging my body around like I was a competitor at the Olympics, showcasing some brilliant, high-scoring (and almost certainly unsafe) moves on the uneven bars.  This was also my first memory of having the wind knocked out of me.

When it happened, I knew I was going to die, which made me so mad, because dead people don't make it to the podium, ever.

Another good memory was our camp pool.  You see, it wasn't actually a pool in the way of your local YMCA, but was rather a concrete mold (in the shape of a pool), filled with water running from a nearby brook.

The brook was also the residence of a moderately-sized family of beavers.  
Or were they moderately-sized beavers?  
Both, probably. 

Our open-swim was held in an opaque brown rectangle that was full of frogs and snakes and salamanders.   We kept a big salt shaker on the lifeguard stand to use in the case that any leaches became stuck to the legs and arms of campers.  There was usually a line to use it.  

You didn't touch the bottom of this pool.  Ever.

Other pages in my mental scrapbook: huge bonfires, camp songs with more verses than 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, chicken patty lunch, a plastic tree with gumdrops on it that you won for "cleanest cabin" (along with getting to keep a stuffed owl for a day - this only works with the under-12 crowd, trust me), feeding our leftover meal bits to the pigs down the road, and wandering semi-aimlessly, playing with kittens and making the next space shuttle out of pom-poms and googley-eyes.

So even though I was a nightmare as an actual camper, I still have some pretty good memories when it comes to our weeks away.  Between morning calisthenics and my post-cookout watermelon binge, I was like a free-range chicken, checking in here, exploring over there... running to the sound of the bell when it was time to eat and giving too much attention to the resident animals.

And now when our campers want to play in a vat of Jell-O pudding or paddle across the pond on their mattress, I'll be flashing back to my own childhood and remembering that, like the time I threw some dish detergent in with my juice, natural consequences are the best kind.

I learned mine at camp - why shouldn't they?

1 comment:

  1. M - we should start some sort of a club/support group for current camp employees who once hated camp. We could share homesick horror stories and reminisce on all the things we told our counselors to convince them we would die if we stayed in the cabin.


Popular Posts