Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer Days Drifting Away

The seven jobs meme that is going around twitter and facebook reminded me that this weekend is the 30th anniversary of the last weekend of my last summer at camp and the 40th anniversary of the last weekend of my first summer at camp.  I spent 1976-1983 as a camper at Camp Airy, and I spent the next three summers as a counselor.  As I have said before, I lived for those summers growing up.  Why?

Mostly because I didn't feel like I fit in where I lived the other 44 weeks of the year, but I did feel like I belonged at camp.  Once I started going eight weeks a year when most kids only when two or four, I felt like an insider with a steady set of friends who also went the distance.  Not only did my counselors know me, but counselors in the rest of the camp did as well as other staffers. 

The strange thing is that I was an outsider.  Most of the kids were from the Baltimore or DC suburbs, but I was from Philly.  My family learned of the camp when we lived in DC, but I only started going two moves later.  So, I didn't know people from school.  Still, it was my home away from home for the most formative years of my life. 

It was where I first played ultimate.  It was where I kept winning in the various wrestling tournaments despite always being the underdog.  It was where I first shot a rifle (and last shot a rifle for that matter).  I played a heap of basketball (badly) and of softball (fairly well).  I did heaps of arts and crafts badly. 

My first time acting was there as well as well as a couple of plays at the girl's camp. 

Ten Little Indians, as a doomed doctor.
Lots of other firsts at camp--holding hands, kiss, girlfriends, broken heart.  

I often joked that camp was for the counselors. Perhaps not, but it was a close race, as I had a heap of fun.  Indeed, of my first seven jobs I had, being a camp counselor was, by far, the best.  
New Counselors Pic 1984, just before we get hit by
water dumped from the roof.  Jon, on the front left, and, I,
on the right, knew and were strategically
positioned to avoid the worst of it.

I could have been a better counselor, but I did embrace the silliness of the experience, twice winning the award for the Wackiest Counselor in my unit during the Wacky Olympics, which involved lots of silly games.  How did I manage that?  Um, by doing stuff like this:

 Facebook has been great at connecting me with my old friends from camp.  The internet has shown me that the camp has changed greatly with lots of new, hip things to attract the new campers like zip lines and go carts.  In my day, it was pretty basic: lots of softball, basketball, archery, swimming, wrestling, arts and crafts, some street hockey with crappy equipment, and a bit of riflery, modest hikes and optional trips for rock climbing, caving, rafting.  I miss the capture the flag games most of all of the larger activities. 

Not a particularly fancy place, but a great environment that was fostered by a terrific director and staff with big hearts.  I have often imagined going back to be some kind of staffer, but it would not be the same.  Anyhow, on this anniversary of the end of my first and last summers at camp, I am just grateful that I had that time in that place.

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