Through winding and sunny country roads of a town too small to be heard of lies the Sea of Woods, better known as Camp Waldemar. For the past seven summers, I have spent every June in this heavenly place. Nestled on the banks of the cool Guadalupe river is Waldemar, with towering cypress trees providing perfect canopies where spots of Texas sun twinkle through the branches like rays of heaven. Horses graze in pastures, cool breezes whisper through screen door cabins, and joy is something that is almost tangible in this wonderful place.
Since my very first year as a camper, there is nothing I had wanted more badly (I have never ever wanted anything that badly) than to be leader of my tribe. At Camp, on the first night, all first year campers draw a slip of paper with either a green "A" for the Aztec tribe, an orange "C" for the Comanche tribe, or a purple "T" for the Tejas tribe. After their tribe is drawn, the girl says her tribe excitedly into a microphone and is then led by the eldest members to her tribe's area. The tribe the girl draws is her tribe for life, her tribe is her new 105 loving sisters that welcome her with open arms. Seven summers ago, I was blessed to have drawn a purple "T" for the Tejas tribe and wouldn't have wanted to be anything other than that. Each tribe has a council of officers elected by the tribe, and the main office/face of the tribe is the Tribal Leader. From the very first time I saw the purple and white feather headdress in 2009, with its beaded band and majestic flow being worn upon the head of the leader, I became determined that I would be wearing that when I became eligible my last year of camp. And throughout the years in between my first and last year, I was cheering the loudest at every game, pep rally, meeting, swim race, anything and everything where I could support my tribe. The year before my last, in June of 2015, one of my closest friends who was a year older, became our tribal leader for that term. We were very similar in our love and passion for the purple people of the Tejas tribe, and she, along with many other counselors and administrators of camp had told me that that would be me next year. Finally I was going to get something I had worked my whole camp career for. All the extra soccer and basketball practices, the extra hustle, that extra yell at the end of cheers, helping little girls do their hair, staying later after meeting and cleaning, doing anything and everything I could for my tribe, no matter what the cost or what hour of the day it was. Everything would finally be worth it. The early mornings, late nights, the no rest hour afternoons, would all be worth it when I finally got to wear that headdress.
My final summer as a camper arrived in June 2016. On June 5, tribal nominating committees met to make the slate of officer nominees that would be voted upon that night. What should have been a day of being sure of myself, didn't feel that way at all. I had the confidence that I would and should be nominated for leader, yet I still felt uneasy. Night time finally arrived, and tribal meetings began. The younger office nominees were announced and voted on, speeches were said and cheers we led. Finally, the older offices slowly were being announced. My friends and I, all anxiously holding hands tight with each other, watched with anticipation as names were revealed for the nominations. The nomination for leader is the last to be announced. I was so focused on what I was going to say in my speech for leader nomination, that my friend had to snap me back into reality when my name was called as being nominated for softball manager. I couldn't believe it. My heart sunk and physically hurt, tears started to well in my eyes. I couldn't move, let alone stand up and go make a speech on why I should get the office. I was paralyzed. My mind was racing, my head was pounding, my lip started to quiver and my eyes stung with tears. It had to be a mistake. But nonetheless, I somehow managed to make my way up there and give a speech. As I stood in front of my tribe, my close friends mouthed apologies and statements to try and make me feel better. And later that night, when the official slate of officers was announced, somehow I managed to win and received the official title of softball manager. All my counselor friends watched in shock and awe as they tried to make sense of what events had transpired to put me in this position, and how the leader of my tribe was put in her position. I cried, hard. I sobbed. I cried one of those cries that never really seems to end, it physically hurts and it's messy and messes with your mind. The kind of cry that hurts your spirit, it seemed like it had crushed mine that night. Nothing was making sense. Nothing was adding up. My whole camp career and I was going to go out with the title of softball manager.
The next day, in the scorching summer afternoon, I met my tribal softball team that I would be managing. A rag tag bunch of girls ages 9-14 that I, with the help of the head of the softball department, would coach. From the moment I stepped on the field with them, my camp career made a change from the worst to the best. I slowly came to realize that my office, contributed more to the tribe than anyone else's. What I came to accomplish with my team, affected the whole tribe. If my team won, it was a win for the tribe as well. If we lost, the tribe lost. But it wasn't just the victories and defeats that mattered, it's small moments in practice or games that make coaching memorable. Home runs and no hitters are great, but it's the singles by a girl who's never touched a bat or the stolen bases by a not so fast girl that win the game, that's what made my last year as a camper my best year. Getting to know each individual player, getting to know their heart and see what drives them. Observing their goofiness and talents, seeing the way they interact with each other. There was one moment in particular, when everything came full circle. I finally had that "Aha!" moment. It was the last game I ever coached at Camp. Top of the 2nd inning, my team is up to bat. A short spunky nine year old who until I started coaching her, had never even touched a softball, goes up to bat. First pitch, swing and a miss.Second pitch, swing and a miss. I call her over and just pat her helmet, then send her back to home plate. Third pitch, she nails a hard grounder to right field and gets a single, also advancing a runner on second base. That moment, seeing her little legs book it to first, that goofy little grin spreading across her face when she realized she did it. We didn't win the game, but I knew that the small personal victories in that game would add up to some incredible victories for another manager down the road. I knew that my team, and my position, and my moments with them made me a home run ball when I thought I was a foul ball in the game of life.