It feels like yesterday was the first day of pre-camp. It feels like yesterday every staff member was sitting in a circle, struggling to learn everyone’s name. It feels like yesterday we were making parent phone calls. It feels like yesterday we were having a mock camp day and didn’t realize there was a missing “camper.” It feels like yesterday we were doing CPR training. It feels like yesterday we were reluctantly learning a dance for a flash mob. It feels like yesterday we were all a bunch of strangers.
That was two months ago.
Yesterday was the last day of camp.
It was a bittersweet day filled with disbelief that the end of camp was only a few hours away. Video tributes played, hugs were given, tears were shed, pictures were taken, and campers were signed out for the final time. Just like that the summer was over. That’s when it sunk in.
This was my third summer working at camp. But it was my first summer since 2011. For the last three years I kept my camp memories alive by sharing stories with friends at school. I also stayed in touch with people I used to work with and some of us would reunite once a year and rehash old camp stories. Camp was always a great memory in the back of my mind.
However, not once during the last three years did I think I would ever return to work as a counsellor. Sure I missed it, but deep down I didn’t have the desire to run around with kids for another summer. I had a good two years; it was time to move on.
Fast forward to this past May. I saw a job posting online for the camp I used to work at and all the memories of camp came back. My desire to return was instant. I emailed the Camp Director and asked to return this summer. I was welcomed back with open arms, capital letters, and multiple exclamation marks.
I was asked all summer why I went back. I still don’t have a concrete answer. It just felt right.
Every day this summer I arrived at camp and didn’t feel like I was entering a workplace. Being a camp counsellor didn’t feel like a job. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t stapled to a desk chair for eight hours a day. Or maybe it’s because I played sports all day with kids less than half my age.
Regardless, I never felt like I was waking up early every morning to go to work. I was waking up early every morning to go be around people I wanted to be around.
In two short months, the group of strangers that met during pre-camp became a family. I know that sounds cheesy and cliche, but it’s true.
No matter where I went during the day, there was someone to talk to. There was someone to smile at. There was someone to laugh with. There was someone to make fun of. There was someone to vent to. There was someone to hug. There was someone to sit with. There was someone to give a high-five. There was always someone.
And I think the Camp Director deserves a lot of credit for making camp feel like home – one big family. There is no other Camp Director I’d rather work for. Many people hate their boss. I loved mine.
Then there were the kids.
Kids are interesting. There are some that are well-behaved and do everything you ask them to do. Then there are some kids that will go climb a tree, pick up snakes, and trap insects in a lunch container.
But at the end of the day there were kids that every staff member was attached to. For two months, these kids saw us more than they saw their own parents.
Our ‘job’ was to take care of them. We did more than that; we became their friends. We laughed with them. We played with them. We persuaded them not to order a plain bagel for lunch. We joked with them. We protected them when strangers at the pool yelled at them. They were our kids. They taught us how to be a kid again.
It’s hard telling a camper that you don’t know if you’ll be back next summer and seeing the disappointment in their eyes. I think that’s when you truly realize that you made an impact on them.
This summer went by too fast. The last two months feel like a mirage.
Monday morning will roll around and I won’t have to roll out of bed early. There are no more morning meetings. There are no more snack times. There are no more crowded picnic tables. There are no more chicken burgers. There are no more trips to the swimming pool. There are no more spills on the floor. There are no more football games on the field. There are no more items that need to be brought to the lost and found. There are no more camp songs.
It’s all over.
I’ll miss camp and everything about it, especially the people. It wasn’t the most extravagant camp in the world, but when you’re surrounded by your family, setting doesn’t really matter.
It was a great two months; I just wish there was more time.
It all feels like just yesterday.