Friday, March 13, 2009

Camp (Thanks, Mel @ Stirrup-Queens)

Oh, the stories I could tell... In the beginning, my elem school took 5 and 6 graders to a place called Camp C0sby for a few days... I went and fell in love. I dare say I was the camp favorite especially in 6th grade, when I was invited back for a (free) week of summer camp, because of a letter I had written to one of the counselors. Maybe that's when I fell in love. I was determined that when I was old enough, I would work there. My parents were saying no way, and I was one determined girl.
My sister had went to a church camp, actually not too far from the first camp, called Sh0cc0 Spr!ngs. When I was in high school, she suggested that I should just apply there, and just see what our parents said. So, during my freshman year of college, I applied. My parents took me to my interview (there was a meeting for parents, as well), and during the entire hour and 15 minute drive, my dad was saying there was NO WAY he was letting HIS LITTLE GIRL, move off with complete strangers for the entire summer, "that far from home," to do ANYTHING.... NO WAY... After the meeting was over and I was waiting for my interview time, he was asking how quickly I could pack my bags.
I worked there for 5 summers, until a really crappy full time job required that I say good-bye to the whole summer job thing. I was crushed, but I was also in a serious relationship, and part of me was ready to "grow up" and take that to the next level. Imagine my months in hell when I brought that relationship to an end (although now, we're married... awwww how sweet), and I was stuck in a job I hated, away from my second home for 5 years. It was more than a summer job -- Fall and Spring semesters were what you worked through to make it to move-in day at Shocco. My only regret was that I didn't start working there sooner. I think every teenager should have to spend at least one summer in camp-mode.
What did I do? Well, the first summer, you just basicaly got "stuck" somewhere. I usually worked the 5AM(!!!!) kitchen shift. Which also meant I was off by 2, and hanging out at the pool by 2:30. The next 2 summers, I packed up food in warmers, loaded them into a van, drove to another kitchen on the other side of campus, and set up and served a meal there. And of course cleaned up afterwards. Clean-up involved a lot of goofing off, playing cards, flirting with (or trying to avoid, as the case sometimes was) the staff from that boys' camp, taking a nap, um.. I mean we did a lot of sweeping, mopping, and general cleaning. Until the next meal. Really. The last 2 summers, I worked in recreation. I spent my days outside on the low and high ropes course, paintball field, playing games and leading youth groups through the ropes course. And I got paid pretty well to PLAY, dude!!!
My favorite part was called Camp Happy Days. This was something rec staff spent months planning for an event that lasted less than a week. This man set up a trust fund or something for kids in DHR (foster care, group homes, just crappy parents, etc) with the stipulation that the camp must be held at Shocco every summer. That was the only camp that Shocco actually planned everything for and fully staffed, and Rec was in charge of the whole thing. It was the most wonderful, emotional, exhausting, frustrating few days of the entire year. Sure, the kids were sometimes horrible and never followed the rules and were outrageous, but they had every reason to be. This was the only thing some of them looked forward to all year. Let me introduce you to a few of my friends...
**Pizza.... Yes, we even called him this to his face. One year, on the last night of camp, his cabin was going around, telling about the decisions they had made a t camp, and this kid busted out with "I made a decision.... I decided that I LIke PIZZA!!!" He was so serious. Another favorite... He got to come back even though he was too old, and he "helped" a little. Sitting around with a bunch of counselors on a short break, someone asked him what he liked on tv. Now understand, this was an extremely white, extremely redneck little guy. His favorite channel? BET.
** "A" had Down syndrome. And lots of boyfriends. Like the camp director, who ws my boss. And Pizza. And pretty much every male she saw. And sometimes, if you made her mad, you know, when you didn't sit with her or pick her for your team, she would break it off. Nope, Pizza and A were no longer getting married.
** "C" had some boyfriends of a different type. Movie Night. Elementary school kids with more ah, "experience," than I now have as I near the second year of my marriage. No lights. Oh yes. Let's just say C was my friend during movie night. 60-70 or more kids in one big room with no lights. Girls on one side, big huge empty space, boys on the other. As you are probably already imagining, that big huge empty space got a little more narrow as the movie played on. C annoyed every last person besides me. I like her, I saw a lot of potential beyond her manipulative, impulsive, annoying, survival-mode self.
Sleep was a rare commodity all summer (unless you were in the kitchen by 5AM), but especially so during the CHD week. You were running on pure adrenaline and caffeine. You were glad to get the sleep when the kids left, but sad to see them go back into the abuse and crappy life they dealt with.
Oh, the stories... And inside jokes... It was a (not so) huge secret that after the full-time staff went home, we sometimes turned on a hose pipe outside (our staff house sat on a big hill), got some baby shampoo, and slid down the hill until just before it turned to mud. I'm sure nobody thought a thing the next morning when, in the middle of a drought, there was suddenly some good-smelling water running down the parking lot, interestingly enough, only at the summer staff house. Golf carts disappeared. Girls snuck boys to the girl's side. Ghost hunts. Sneaking off to the water tower and climbing to the top. "Jello" and "whip-n-chill" "Goin to Uncle RA"
Since it's less of a "camp" and more of a conference center, I still occasionally get to go back to Shocco. It still feels like home, as I round that last curve, see the lake come into view.... I still smile and sigh, because I know I'm home.

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