This week's writing prompt from Mama Kat's asks us to write about a summer camp memory.
Ah, summer camp. For most parents, it's a breath of fresh air, a place to send your kids for a few weeks to reclaim your sanity. You write your lil' pumpkin's name in all of their shirts and undies in smelly black sharpie, meticulously check off the pre-made "Bring To Camp With You" checklist so courteously provided by the camp of choice, slather your angel in SPF40 and load them on the bus. As the bus pulls off, you breath a sigh of contentment, knowing that your sweet baby is bound for a childhood Eden to be cared for by the tender loving hands of specially trained camp counselors who will love and cherish them until they return to your own arm.
I walked into the rectory, glancing at my watch, surprised that the place was still empty. (Wow, I'm early for once? Hot damn! Er...) I looked up at the cross on the wall. (Sorry about that, Jesus.) I stretched out across a row of chairs and pulled out a notebook and pen, doodling on the page as I wait. I don't have to wait too long. A short, heavy, balding man approached me, offering his hand. I introduced myself and mentioned that I was here the CIT program. (Counselor In Training - your first summer is spent in training under the supervision of another counselor, and you get your own cabin of campers the following summer.) The man raised an eyebrow at me.
"CIT?" He looked down at his clipboard. "It says here that you're a full counselor. I've got a group of 10-11 year olds assigned to you."
"Um.." I blinked. "I think there's been a mistake. I've never even attended this summer camp as a camper, I just volunteered to do this through my church."
He let out a heavy sigh. "Well...the campers are due in an hour, and I don't have another person to fill your place. Do you think you can handle it?"
What could I say? I swallowed deep. "Sure." I put on my bravest smile. "I help out in youth group all the time, it'll be a piece of cake!"
Later that night, after I'd finally tucked my campers into bed, dried the 'I'm away from home and want my mommy!" tears, located the teddy bear that had gone missing and somehow wound up in the lunchroom, and replaced two forgotten toothbrushes, I slid into my sleeping bag and leaned back against the pillow. Listening to the kids breathing around me, I seriously questioned my sanity. My CIT turned out to be no better than the campers, for all the help she was offering me. I had NO idea what I was doing, but hey, the kids were having fun and I'd yet to have anyone go to the infirmary, so as a counselor, I was a success, right?
Then came the gentle tapping on the window. I glanced around the room and quietly climbed out of bed, sliding open the pane of glass.
"Hello?" I whispered to the darkness.
"Scarlett?" The darkness whispered back. Okay, maybe it wasn't the darkness. It may or may not have been the cute guy's 13-14 counselor with the curly brown hair and charming smile, inviting me out for a little bit of fun. We'll call him Jake* I glanced back over my shoulder at my sleeping campers. They'd be fine, right? Besides, they had a CIT (worthless as she was) with them, and if someone got hurt, well, another counselor would hear the crying, right? Didn't I deserve a break, too? I wasn't even getting paid for this, not to MENTION this wasn't the job I'd signed on for! With a final nod of my head, I was out the window and running across the grass.
Jake grabbed my hand and pulled me under the cluster of picnic tables in the field where we were greeted by Lexi*, Emma*, Nate*, and Brandon*. All of whom were counselors. Between us, we'd left about 60 kids between the ages of 6 and 14 unattended. Hey, come on, we were only 15 ourselves, what do you expect?
That night is a blur. Somehow, we made ourselves a goal of sneaking into every camp facility and leaving a mark. Without getting caught, of course. No one had done it before. We would be legends. Now, what would be our proof? From his pocket, Jake produced a handful of balloons. In the morning, the camp wouldn't know what to make of the mysterious balloon that had magically appeared in the dead center of every room.
Okay, okay. We weren't exactly rebels here, but it was a church camp. We had limited means.
We broke into the gym and left a pile of balls topped with a balloon in the center of the court.
We broke in (okay, it was unlocked) to the cafeteria, collected all the silverware bins on the center table and topped it with a balloon.
We tossed balloons into the pool.
We thumbtacked balloons to the benches in the amphitheater.
We had a water balloon fight in the center of the ball field, ducking out of the way of the headlights of passing cars.
In a rare moment of clarity, we decided that the horses probably wouldn't appreciate midnight visitors, so we made a last minute amendment to our goal and left the stables alone.
At the end of the night, we slid back underneath our picnic tables to say goodbye and then raced back to our cabins just as the sun crept over the horizon. I slipped back into my cabin window, grateful that everyone was snuggled back into their beds. Just before I crawled back under the covers, a tap came at the window.
I slid the window open. Without a word, Jake leaned over the windowsill and placed a hand on my cheek, and kissed me.
Then, he was gone.
A short time (MUCH too short) later, I'd gotten my campers up, dressed and ushered them into the cafeteria for breakfast. Word had spread around camp, and the rumors of the origins of the mysterious balloon culprits were circulating, but no one had a clue who actually did it. Satisfied that we'd gotten off scott-free, I dug into my pancakes. Then, a little voice came from across the table.
"Where did you go last night?" Emily, my littlest camper looked at me.
"No...nowhere?" I did my best to look confused.
"Yuh-huh." She set her jaw. "I got up for water and you were GONE."
"Uh, you must have been dreaming." I glanced around at the suddenly silent table. "I was there the whole night." Inwardly, I willed the other counselors, the GOOD counselors, the ones who hadn't left their kids alone, to stop looking at me with such disdain.
"No, I wasn't. I was not dreaming." She was adamant.
"Um, well..." I desperately looked over at Jake for rescue. "I don't know what to tell you, I was there."
"Hey, Emily?" I heard Jake's voice cutting off Emily's reply. I turned to see him holding up a bowl of cereal - Lucky Charms, a hot commodity in the world of healthy breakfasts. "You want my marshmallows?"
I breathed a sigh of relief as Emily reached over the table, her earlier line of questioning forgotten.
Saved by breakfast cereal.
Incidentally, while never officially busted for our night's events, none of us were invited back the following summer. Couldn't possibly imagine why?
*names changed to protect the guilty.