During my many years of volunteering at camp, I’ve noticed a few phenomena that I thought I would share with you.
1. The same kids who can’t manage to carry their own sleeping bag and luggage to the cabin can actually take of themselves when their parents are gone. It’s funny to watch the parents doting over their children, carrying their luggage, making their beds and fluffing their pillows. The parents would be surprised to see that the kids do just fine after they leave. Kids make their own beds, clean the bathhouse and even keep up with their own belongings (although there is always a pile of leftover stuff at the end of camp).
I will admit that the standards for self-care are not usually as high as the parents would prefer. On the girls’ side, in the younger cabins, there are typically moms as counselors. In that case, the girls actually shower and brush their hair and teeth. Some girls even have braided or at least brushed hair. They don’t look too bad, since a mom, even if it’s not their mom, is there to tell them to check the mirror every once in a while.
The same can’t be said of the boys’ side. They have dads or teenaged boys taking care of them. I have to laugh as I see the little boys get more and more dingy looking as the week progresses. Many times, they will wear the same clothes for several days, and sometimes, those clothes will be backwards or inside out. I don’t even want to know about their tooth-brushing habits, and I’m pretty sure no hairbrushes were injured in the making of the camp week. There was one little boy last week who had the same blue sticky candy spot on his face on Thursday that he had on Tuesday. It went away on Friday since we went tubing. (Come to think of it, maybe that’s why they saved tubing for the end of the week…to make sure the boys were somewhat clean before their mothers saw them again!)
2. Years later, the same little girls who only brushed their hair because the moms told them to become teenagers who primp even at camp. The smell of hair straighteners burning and hair spray and perfume fills the otherwise musty cabins. While everyone else looks like a mess, the teen girls look ready for the runway.
3. Years later, the same little boys who did not look in the mirror become big boys who don’t look in the mirror. The one little boy may now be a big boy, still be wearing the blue sticky spot from years past.
4. Shaving cream is fun. I don’t care who you are. Each year, there are several adults and some kids who say they aren’t going to participate in the shaving cream war. It is rare that I see anyone come away without at least a little bit of shaving cream on them. The people who participate know the rules. They know where the “safe” zone is, and they know they aren’t supposed to attack the people in that zone. It’s too tempting, however, and those who are “safe” really aren’t. This year, I ended up with shaving cream all over my shirt and in my hair, thanks to two grown men. They just couldn’t help themselves. My clean shirt was like a blank canvas.
5. Kids know exactly what they want in life until the get to the canteen. For years now, I have run the canteen. I love it, because I get to see everyone and they are all happy to see me. I give them candy and ice cream. What kills me is how they stand in line for several minutes. They have a menu board right in front of them. However, when it’s their turn in line, they have to stand there and look around the canteen to determine what they want. You would think that they would decide while waiting. You would also think that, since the menu doesn’t change from day to day, they would know by Wednesday what they want to order. You would be wrong, though. Just about everyone has to stand there and look around. I used to think it was because they were enjoying the air conditioning that was blowing out from the canteen. This year, however, the a/c was broken, and they still stood and looked. Maybe it was my irresistible wit and charm.
6. Traditions are traditions, even if we don’t know why. At our week of camp, there is a walking stick with a lion head on it. Every year, at some point during a meal, the song, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” is played and several men take turns dancing with the stick. Why? I have no idea, but camp wouldn’t be complete without it. It’s those silly traditions that make camp fun.
7. People let their guards down when they are dirty and tired. At church, we all talk to each other and sort-of get to know each other. We might even go to lunch together, but we don’t truly see each other. At camp, we can’t help but truly see each other. There is a sense of family and togetherness when everyone is equally dirty, sweaty and tired. All precepts go right out the window. It’s virtually impossible to look good at camp (although some of the ladies and most of the teen girls actually manage it), so there’s no covering up our true selves. After a week at camp, about 40 grown people that I go to church with will have seen me in my natural state, bed-head and all. There’s a deep friendship that comes through that. We are all in it together, and we all look equally as bad. (Either that, or this is just my excuse to not brush my hair.)
8. The deer know when to come back. All last week, the deer were gone. It made me sad because I thought I wouldn’t see them all summer. However, within an hour of the campers leaving, they were back, eating the leftover candy on the ground. I think they had a lookout at the edge of the woods to tell them when the coast was clear.
So many strange things happen at camp. It’s a great place to be. I’m glad I’m here all summer. There’s no telling what else I’ll see! -Al