I swear if I had enough money and a way, my dream job would be to run a summer camp for kids/teens. There’s just so much fun and joy that comes to mind when I talk about or write about this topic. Having participated in camps, been a junior counselor at camps, worked my way through college as a senior counselor at camps, I have to say they’re just magical places. The funny thing is, over the years, I’ve lived in very different parts of the country, worked with people from different walks of life, and if they’ve been to camp, when the conversation comes up, there are these universal truths or experiences to it. Many times the camps are completely different types of camps; however, the universal experience remains. The songs differ a bit, but they’re always there. There’s buttons, bead animals, lanyard necklaces, and water fights. Then there’s the parallel existences between the campers, the junior counselors, and the senior counselors. The campers are just clueless, having fun. The junior counselors are there for their own socialization; however, end up doing a lot of work that the senior counselors aren’t up for. Being a senior camp counselor is like attending a camp of your own. A summer away with a whole group of college kids, whose job is supposed to be to entertain the kids; however, most of their time is spent doing just enough with the kids to make things run, while focusing heavily on developing their own relationships with the other senior counselors. There’s always the camper that shows up every week, probably cause mom or dad need some respite over the summer and becomes the stuff of camp folklore legend. It’s intense games of capture the flag (a great opportunity for two senior counselors to bond while their kids dual it out for a couple of hours). There’s the camp food and the chef. There’s the bar off in town where the senior counselors sneak off to. Then there’s the intense relationships that are formed. By Wednesday, someone is crying because ‘departure is only three days away and they’ll be losing all their new ‘best friends.’ Camp has this magical quality to it that permeates all camps, where in two days you’ve met the ‘best friends of your life.’ You spend the rest of the week going in and out of breakdowns because ‘how will you live without these people.’ I mean, ‘You’ve found yourself.” It makes you forget about your friends at home (those pieces of crap) because by day two, you’ve found your soulmates. Addresses are exchanged and there are letters sent for a month or two about how much you miss each other and camp and how life back at home has just been awful since you realized ‘camp’ was out there. It’s truly amazing how arts and crafts and some archery can bring people together. I could go on and one about the ‘camp experience.’ Truthfully, I love hearing other people’s camp stories. They always make me laugh. I wrote the poem that follows about one summer I spent as a junior counselor at a camp. I hope you enjoy it.
When the camp director with frosted hair showed up, with her husband who had zombie eyes and seemed pistol whipped, we knew camp just got serious.
She arrived with a whistle
fiercely protective of the snacks in the kitchen.
“Dipping,” which was eating a snack before served to the campers,
was strictly forbidden.
This woman had been to camps with bigger rivers,
macaroni necklaces and beaded lizards weren’t her thing.
That was the summer she hired the sultry phone sex operator
we all loved as assistant director, which made all junior counselors want to be nowhere but the kitchen,
which served as the assistant camp director’s office. She was who we thought of
as we learned to shave, her voice alone advanced the smalls and bigs of our receptive bodies.
Camp shirt, short skirt, heels. Cigarettes, surely tucked somewhere on her.
She was the excitement of teen boys looking and dreaming at the condom aisle next to the used condoms of counselors she worked with.
Never had anyone been more excited to make a sit upon or a beaded key chain,
as she dominated the arts and crafts cabin, almost shutting down the archery and BB gun’s clientele.
All day we’d drink glasses of lemonade and grill her to tell us about her life.
Each morning, we’d stand erect at the flag pole as she was entrusted to her American duty.
It was some sort of strange Nascar race,
with this beautiful model leading the pledge.
She seemed so oblivious to why boys
lined up so excited to say the pledge and raise the flag.
When we said, I pledge allegiance to the flag.. and for which it stands
it was the first time most of us admitted our devotion to a woman.
Meanwhile, the other counselors hated her, gossiped about what a floozy she was,
kept their summer tradition of treating us cruelly and sleeping with one another.
We all knew they were jealous that they could never get anyone in that dusty arts and crafts cabin
and that summer the beach, the archery range, the games of capture the flag
lacked junior counselors to supervise the kids they did not sign up to babysit all summer.
She was like prohibition to the life of the camp counselors, who now had to work.
As all the junior counselors took verbal beatings from the bleached haired director,
who had no idea what kind of expert fire starter she hired. The summer
the camp lemonade budget spiked and bead animals infested the camp,
and a lot of young males learned there was more to life than shooting a bow or gun.