Time for a happy post. I can’t take yet another heavy story right now, so let me try the following:
Going away to summer camp is the golden stuff of childhood. It just doesn’t get any better. Then put that camp in a secluded woods set on a large lake with long line of A-frame cabins lining a wide path leading to the main hall and dining area. Good stuff right? Add in a sandy area for volleyball, a dock for swimming with an adequate supply of canoes, a field for softball and a big campfire circle for late night stories and singing set alongside badminton net and you have the makings for endless days and nights of fun and memory making.
The first summer or two I attended this camp for a all too short week, but later had the opportunity to volunteer as help in the kitchen during sessions for the younger ages prior to staying on for a final week as a camper during teen week. And while I had a good time as a camper my fondest memories are from weeks as a worker. I can still imagine the staticky music blaring from the radio as we prepped food and set tables in the mess hall for each meal, or while working the concession stand open between meals for kids who had a handful of change to spend splurging on a surgery treat. The air was fresh with the scent of endless fir trees and carried laughter, splashes and squeals from diving swimmers and the ring of metal hitting metal at the horseshoe pit, all drifting in on the breeze from various corners of the campground to where I worked on a task. The cherry on the top was an immediate bond made with a girl from another church in the district along with a crush on a particularity cute camp counselors. I think that crush was many of the things she and I shared that summer, but it didn’t matter. Like obviously nothing would become of it, so let’s just enjoy it, together!
And at that age what kid knows how to actually show someone you like them, apart from teasing and, in this particular case, pranks? Luckily for us, I had access to a whole storeroom of supplies to satisfy any mischievousness we could dream up. And dream we did.
It started with sneaking into his cabin and filling his sleeping bag with crumbled saltine crackers. And lots of pepper. That got a late night roar that had us in stitches.
The best was most likely the evening ham was on the menu. Oh. I have a great idea! How about I spread a thick even layer of garlic powder on his white paper plate? Which would blend in perfectly. That ought to soak up nicely into a slice of ham, sitting there on the plate during prayer. So after a big bite the first thing he’d do is grab for a drink, right, for relief? But the holes in the bottom of the cup would certainly make getting a good gulp of liquid difficult. It worked perfectly, like clockwork. Oh the delight of that moment.
Not that he was the only target. Saran wrap covering an outhouse hole caused a few surprises, along with edging the opening with a line of peanut butter another night.
It earned us a throwing into the lake off the dock – “1, 2, 3 toss” style – but it was sooooo worth it. We certainly irritated a few people, but everyone actually was enjoying the teasing fun and began joining in trying to trip us up with pranks of their own. Sheesh, these days we probably would have gotten thrown out of camp, sent home in shame. But luckily we had an easy going audience who allowed us to be silly 15 year old girls with crushes and way too much energy and imagination.
And look at all the wonderful memories I have years and years later. It was a sweet summer and perhaps even better than the fabulous success of our series of pranks were the late nights after the camp had settled in for the evening when my new best friend and I would wander through the darkening sky to the edge of the lake, grabbing oars stepping into a canoe to slip out onto the black water, paddling to the very center where we would look back at the twinkling lights from the row of cabins. With trust and hopeful spirits we shared our dreams about what our lives were going to become, in just a few years, when we would be free to leave home and begin a life of our own design.
Sweet, tender days and nights. These were the times that fed my soul, gave me a taste of what I could do and be when freed from the reigns of my family, fueling my determination to get to the day when I could step out into that amazing future.