What Summers Were Made For

March 28, 2008
I first realized I had died and gone to Hell when I awoke on a cot, in a tent, in the middle of the woods, to the High School Musical soundtrack. It only took me a few moments in my morning haze to correct myself. This was just purgatory.

In truth, it was Camp Sacajawea, the Girl Scout camp I work at every summer. No matter how much I joke about it, I loved camp. It was truly my home away from home and I couldn’t imagine a summer without it.

Camp was beautiful. There was no other word for it. The way the trees looked on a backdrop of blue sky, the way the turtles swam lazily just below the surface of the lake, the way girls of all ages would have the time of their lives, it all came together as a magnificent masterpiece. Camp was beauty at its best.

I was a resident camper, which was a really fancy way of saying I stayed all week at camp in a platform tent. I worked there as a program aid (or PA), meaning I was the lowest of the low on the staff chain. Program aids were about 13-15 years old and helped run the programs anyway we could. We were an essential part of the camp but hardly recognized for what we did.

When PA’s stayed over as a resident, we were assigned two or three to a unit, depending on how many PA’s were staying. I was usually assigned to Brownies – the youngest girl scouts. Dealing with first, second, and third graders in the morning and at night was a real challenge. They scared easily, argued one time and were best friends the very next moment, and to top it all off were very prone to homesickness. It was hard to convince seven year olds that camp was almost over, and they would see their parents soon. I managed, though.

Now, usually when the counselors of my unit woke everyone up, it was by going tent to tent. I suppose she had already done that, and I had gone back to sleep, as most of the girls were in the pavilion of the unit. All I knew was that when I woke up, it was to High School Musical.

I remember this day happened the week I was in Sweetie’s unit. All of the staff members have camp names. Mine was Inuyasha; her’s was Sweetie. She was the most psychotic counselor I had ever met. She talked through a stuffed monkey who "ate" earwax.

So when I awoke to "We’re All in This Together", I wasn’t that surprised.

Dressing in record time was a skill I got from being at camp as much as I am. No one cared about what you looked like, so fashion was hardly a factor. I would literally wake up and a minute later I would be dressed and ready to go to breakfast.

Breakfast was always my favorite meal, whether at camp or otherwise. Our cook’s "name" was Odi, and she made amazing food. We entered the dining hall scattering out and taking seats among the other units and girls of all ages.

After breakfast, we headed down to the flag field for opening flag. That was when we hoisted the American flag, saluted it, and said the Girl Scout promise. Then we had announcements before being shipped off to center camp.

Center camp was where the office and the PA tables were. We headed to the PA tables to receive our assignments. Our assignments were what program we would help at that day. Each day we had a different assignment and were supposed to help out as best we could at each and every one. After being assigned to Arts and Crafts, I went off.

I loved helping out at Arts and Crafts. It was an easy job and it was fun to help the kids make the craft. That day we were making pet rock houses out of Popsicle sticks. The kids had fun with it, and I loved my pet rock that I made (his name was Rockie).

After lunch (another magnificent meal of Odi’s), we received our afternoon assignments. It was a fair afternoon, so I was ecstatic when I was assigned to Canoe. Going to canoe was one of my favorite assignments. Cedar Lake was always beautiful, with sunlight reflecting off of the surface. Toads would fill the air with choruses of ribbits. It was beautiful, just like the rest of camp.

There was a running joke at Camp Sacajawea. We had always claimed there was a walrus in the lake. Some claimed to have seen it, others claimed to have heard it. Either way, there was a walrus in our lake.

Now, of course the walrus didn’t really exist, but it was one of the crazy things that made camp unlike any other experience.

The PA’s were allowed out in the kayaks, so as to watch the kids from the water and help if any of them got stuck. That rarely happened, so we were free to enjoy the beautiful scenery of camp.

Closing flag came swiftly. We sang "Taps" and made any final announcements before the day campers left for their buses and parent’s cars. Resident campers returned to their units for free time. Free time dwindled away before we headed back to the dining hall for the last meal of the day.

After dinner was supposed to be quiet time, but it was rarely spent quiet. Girls huddled in tents, and chatted away, sharing their stories of the day. PA’s listened to iPods in their tent or read.

When I went outside the tent and saw the crisp clear sky and the beautiful stars you wouldn’t see in civilization, I couldn’t help but smile. It reminded me why I loved camp so much. After it was lights out and well past ten, I crawled into my mosquito netting and into my sleeping bag, ready to fall asleep, prepared to start it all over again the next day.

I first realized I had died and gone to Heaven when I awoke the next day on a cot, in a tent, in the middle of the woods, to the High School Musical soundtrack. It only took me a few moments in my morning haze to correct myself. This was just Camp Sacajawea.


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