With a title like this, you would think that this was a writing assignment for a kid between the ages of 6 and 16 during their first week back at school. Instead this little rambling came from a 50ish adult. Yes, I spent my summer at camp!
It all started when the high school where I was working laid some of the staff off because of a budget crunch, this was on Monday. The next morning, Tuesday, I drove up to the mountains just outside Prescott, Arizona. My daughter, a counselor at the camp, had forgotten to take a copy of her shot records and besides I now had plenty time on my hands and heavens knows Prescott is much cooler than Phoenix any time of the year. When I arrived at camp it was a nice cool 72 degrees and I, being a long time Phoenician felt a chill in the air. Ah, how nice!
I had timed my arrival to coincide with my daughters break. She showed me the camp, which involved lots of hiking up and down steep paths as this camp is on the side of a mountain. She was quick to point out that I had already broken two camp rules, no sandals and always, always carry water. Of course being the Phoenician I was, I had on sandals (it was summer after all) and carrying not a drop of water. She then took me to the camp director’s office, introduced me and left. Uh oh, something was up. The director sat me down asked me about my tour of the camp and then attacked! She understood I was unemployed and surprise; there was an opening at the camp as the Business Manager. Their current Business Manager had just given her notice and walked off the job and they needed my help. My daughter and her cousin, who was also a counselor at camp, thought I would be wonderful as the business manager, so they conspired, prior to my timely arrival, with the Camp Director. I said yes to the job, as I thought it would be a great opportunity to spend quality time with my daughter. Little did I know this was not the camping experience of my childhood dreams?
By Sunday, I was packed with all the essentials (chocolate two bite brownies and Starbuck’s Frappuccino), I kissed my husband, cat and turtle good-by and I was on my way to camp for the summer. When you think “summer camp” you think of lazy days having fun, taking naps, hiking and sitting around the campfire singing. Well, did I have a lot to learn? By the end of my first hour in camp I was handed my job description shown to a table in the lodge and was busy checking in 120 girls between the ages of 6 and 17. I hadn’t even had time to find my cabin or unpack. The cool weather of the past week was gone, really gone. The temperature was approaching the mid-nineties, the air conditioning in the lodge wasn’t working and I was sweating bullets. Not only did I have 32 staff member names to learn but an additional 120 girls. Well I would never learn all the girls’ names at each camp for the rest of the summer but I will never forget some of them.
Dinner the first night was quite an adventure. Counselors sat at the head and the foot of each table of eight girls with the idea to keep them orderly. Even before it was our turn to line up for our food I had learned that one of the girls wanted to go home as we did not have Starbucks coffee and another little girl announced her brother had been kicked out of three high schools. More information than I needed to know. Each new group of girls was like this, eager to share family secrets.
Your usual job is eight to ten hour days with some overtime. Not camp. We were “on” 24 x 7 through the whole summer, whether it was a three day camp or two weeks. There were few breaks and when you did get that precious break you spent that quality time taking a shower or catching much needed sleep as those little darlings usually kept you up all night.
We had little girls that spit up just for attention. We had little girls that were genuinely home sick and then we had the pretenders. The “pretenders” had “sprained” ankles or wrists and they whined and cried buckets but when they thought you weren’t looking. Then, what a miracle, they were just fine, running and jumping around, having all kinds of fun. I for one, have never before witnessed miracles such as these.
During our two-week long camp, which I have decided is too long for most kids especially when the parents fail to tell the child it is a two-week camp, we were graced with The Drama Queen!! Now she wasn’t in drama, she was in dance, but she was definitely THE drama queen. Everything that happened to her was tragic, sad, or devastating. And if you didn’t notice her performance the first time, she was more than glad to do her whole act all over again. Her counselors and I decided that she would definitely be an actress when she grew up and she would make some poor director pay dearly.
Because I was the newest member of the team, the other staff members delighted in telling me the camp ghost stories. This was ok until my cabin flooded because the water heater sprung a leak and of course I was put in the Big House, which was rumored to be haunted. My first night in the Big House was something I hope to never go through again. Right before I went to sleep, I heard echoing laughter, OK, I was sure that could be explained some how. Then after I did go to sleep I had a nightmare where someone was trying to push me out of my cot. I couldn’t wake up to stop the nightmare and when I did, I was terrified enough that I put myself into a panic attack. The next day I begged the resident manager to fix the water heater so I could move back into my cozy little cabin. He, by the way, was one of the people delighting in telling me about how the camp was haunted. But being a great guy, he fixed the water heater and I went back to my ghost-free cozy little cabin.
By the end of the summer I was five pounds thinner, this was from hiking up and down the mountain to and from meals and for once in my life I had a tan. I had also learned that a golf cart when going at full speed and hitting a bump just right would leave the ground and become airborne! I also now had 30 more daughters I adored and will miss and always remember very fondly.
We never got that campfire. For most of the camp we were in a draught and the last two weeks of camp it rained so much the wood was too wet to burn. The only s’mores we ate came out of the camp microwave oven. I learned lots of new songs; and some of the music and words will haunt me till I die. I hear them over and over in my head. I did learn a lot, I did have fun, and yes I would do it again, even with the ghosts.
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