Remember the first overnight camp? The b-line for the top bunk. The craft room overflowing with godseye yarn and friendship bracelets? The handsome, guitar playing counselor that was the perfect shade of tan? The 3:00 grape kool-aid and Ritz cracker sandwiches? The campfires at the end of a day so packed full of fun that your eyes struggled to stay open. Maybe even a first kiss? The ravine offered up some serious privacy for the first time. The girl that took just a little too long in the public shower? The intangible smell of rotting feet by the end of the week?I think at age ten, I was pretty sure I was going to grow up and run a camp. Or at least be one of the sassy counselors that sang clear and strong while my bleached out ponytail blew in the wind at the campfire.
Such a damn romantic. Always. And I’ll be damned if that’s not exactly what happened.
There are no creaky cabins. No mysterious ghost stories. I don’t play the guitar and there certainly is no KP duty. But, I might as well be wearing a matching t-shirt and rolled up cut-offs, because I am the camp counselor.
Camp starts when the sun rises and the pitter patter of feet fall out of bunks and stumble to the kitchen. And I’m on.
Today’s Itinerary:MAKE IT THROUGH THE DAY WITHOUT A VISIT TO THE ER OR THE PEDIATRIC DENTIST.
They campers are happily unaware of this mantra, but it is always present in my mind, and thus there is less creative space available.Yes, there will be pine cone bird feeders and homemade fairy houses. There will be nature hikes and bike rides to ice cream parlors. There will be environmentally dangerous amount of sprinklers and pool time. There will be a freezer with a never-ending supply of ices.
And Thank God. I hope this is what they remember, because I’m pretty sure I have become the chubby, bossy, frizzy-haired counselor that you prayed would never call your name on cabin assignment am. You know the one. There is Barbie-esque counselor Aimie that will share her lip stick collection with you after light-out, and then there is “Barb” the-chip-on-my-shoulder-I-earned-every-damn-girl-scout-badge-get-your-skunky-butt-in-your-bunk-you-lazy-kid, camp facilitator. You don’t walk to close to Barb (and not just because her arm flab is scary on the hike down to the lake).
Barb sucks the magic out of the air, and you just want to hold on the possibility of new adventure.
I want to be Aimie. I want to be the counselor that sneaks pixie sticks under your pillow after dark and shares a sly wink when you “accidently” end up seated next to your first crush at campfire time. I want my kids to come to me with awe in their faces, with questions from their heart. God help me, I want that damn golden ponytail.And yet, flabby arms and all, I find myself “Barb” hiking down to the lake. Or shoving butts into car seats. Slapping sunscreen on pudgy cheeks and poorly shaven legs. Nagging about table manners. Yanking kiddos out of pools if they don’t follow proper pool etiquette. Counting marshmallows.
Oh, Barb, you are missing the whole point.
And yet, I wonder if Aimee knew CPR. I’m pretty sure she never made a frantic run to the ER with a two year old’s eye bleeding down her face. I think she was typically slathered in baby oil instead of SPF 50.Motherhood requires a new name. There must be room for both needs, because I do not want to sacrifice all the magic in the name of safety. I will encourage mud pies, nerf wars, princess forts, backward dives. Body paint. I will make sure they stay up so late they fall asleep in their hoodies at a campfire. I will hand out sparklers and stock my closet with glow sticks. We will catch fireflies.
But I’m pretty sure Barb will always be watching too. I’m not too proud to jump in a pool fully clothed to man-handle a nine year old to a timeout on the deck. I’m an utter nag about sunhats and shoes in public restrooms. I will not to feed them hotdogs more than three times a week. I will work on those shmuckin’ triceps……I’m going to try to remember that despite the long hours of mud-smeared, constant snack producing, face sweating, endless cleaning, safety nagging work of being a mom counselor, I also get to witness the intangible joy of a free summer.
I have the luxury of watching their little shoulders tan and cheering for the bellyflops. Strawberry picking and growing a neglected garden.The ten year old never envisioned the counselor I have become. But I will put on my lifeguard whistle, cook’s hat, arts and crafts director badge, reading coach glasses, grounds keeper visor, maid apron and nurses gloves to make this one work as best I can.
But, I can’t promise I won’t sit outside with a brandy slush when the day is over. You can't tell me Barb or Aimie wouldn't didn't want to do the same thing.