Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Forever Young

So, I've been absent from the blog for a while. I was at a conference for my "real job" last week, and the lavish dining out and drinking in the swanky hotel bar kind of got in my way. Therefore, when I say "a while", it's really only been six days, but it feels more like "a while". I've really missed writing down my random thoughts, both those that are sarcastic and tacky as well as those that are lovely and meaningful. I fully intended on the sarcastic and tacky variety as I had a bit of a showdown with a well-known cable company for most of my pre-noon day, but then I just couldn't do it. So maybe tomorrow. Maybe.

Last week was the educational conference (which truly was great), but apparently I missed a crapload of crazy here at camp last week. And when I say that I missed it, I don't just mean that I was absent for it. I mean that I really and truly missed it; I thought about it every day. But I wasn't a part of the crazy, so that's not my subject tonight either.

Remember that movie, The Karate Kid? The original. Not this new lame-ass Jackie Chan version. The one with Daniel-san, the outcast, who befriends and later learns from Mr. Miyagi? That Miyagi character was weird for me at first. Sure, he's all wise and cool as shit once you get to know him, but truthfully now, wasn't he just the tired old dude with the bonsai addiction for like half the movie? And didn't you think, "WTF, dude? Why are you hangin' out with that old man?" It was weird. Admit it.

Don't worry about the Karate Kid sidebar. I'll get there. Just be patient.

When I started as a counselor at camp 16 summers ago, I was so young and dumb. Soooo young. Soooo dumb. But I loved it. I loved every single second of it. And although I loved the kids -- adored them even, the best part of camp for me was time-off. Time-off = hanging out with my new best buds. Time-off = hanging out in the Counselor's Cabin, telling stories, smoking cigarettes (or just taking in the secondhand smoke), and laughing our asses off.

But every once in a while, something strange would happen.

Our boss-- THE camp director -- would waltz in, plop down, and entertain us for a while. Sometimes, she'd let us entertain her. And whenever she was in the CC, it seemed like we could do no wrong in her eyes. Things she might normally frown upon were overlooked because... in the CC... everyone's an equal. There's no rank; it's a completely classless (in every sense of the word) society. Here was the Boss Lady, singing camp inappropriate tunes, re-living the good ol' days, and playing practical jokes. Literally, one time, she spent half a day or more with a dead snake on a string, scaring the bejeezus out of each and every person arriving for their break. It was bizarre and awesome all in the same breath. I always wondered, however, why she took the time to come in to that ratty-ass, smoke-filled cabin because, I mean, she was... well... old.

(Mind you, I was nineteen. Nine-teen. Plus, did I mention that I was young? And dumb? Only a dumbass 19 year old thinks that 36 is old.)

When I joined the ad staff a couple of summers later, I realized that the wisecracking, fun-loving person wasn't just who she was in the CC, it was who she was most of the time. That ad staff had a great amount of fun those few summers. They were some of the best portions of my life, in fact, and I still count those people as some of the most dynamic and life-changing people I've ever known. And a few are still my very best friends, including that practical joking Boss Lady. But I can remember, at the not-that-grown-up age of 21, thinking how slightly strange it was that someone 17 years older than me and my equally not-so-grown-up cohorts could not only stomach us and our shenanigans and dumbassery but also kind of appreciate us in spite of it. Honestly, I thought that she would, one day, wake up, realize how wearing and tiresome the Young and the Dumb could be, and kick our broke asses out into the street.

But she didn't. Amazingly enough, she stuck with us -- chance after chance after chance until one day, when no one was paying close attention, we grew up and got all... responsible. For real. We hold down jobs, pay our bills, and do our taxes. Some of us own homes, exchanged vows, and one even has a kid of her own. And she totally knows what to do with him and doesn't leave him random places because she forgot where she put him. This fact amazes me. (Granted, she was the only person I knew who ALWAYS had her water bottle at camp. I should have viewed this as some sort of test-run to motherhood. I, on the other hand, always left my water bottle random places and just borrowed hers when I felt like it. Come to think of it, now sometimes I just borrow her kid in much the same way. Weird.)

Tonight, as I walked into our office, I found it full of counselors on their time off. In fact, they're continually in our office, hanging out on their time off. Our office is this camp's version of the CC, apparently (minus the smoke and the snake on a string). Normally, when this happens, I leave them alone, find another computer to work on, and go about letting them be young. And dumb. Because that's their job when it comes to time-off. So, I went next door to the Boss Lady's office to work. And damned if there wasn't another counselor in there! So, I gave up, took off my soggy shoes, and chatted up this kid about the world events and life and the new L-U-V he's discovered at camp.

One by one, the time-offers trickled in -- some counselors, some ad staff -- and, you know what? We laughed our asses off. They fully entertained me, and they even let me entertain them a bit. It was awesome. Then, just as I was starting to feel young again, I dropped my favorite -- the f-bomb -- and one of the 17 year old JC's almost fell out of her chair. She was stunned, but slightly impressed, I think. And just as I was starting to feel cool again, I realized, "She's not impressed because I'm like her. She's impressed because I'm so UNLIKE her."

Because I'm... well... I'm old.

Then another one had to rat me out for playing a practical joke on him a couple of years ago. Why was it so amusing to others? Because I'm... well... old, and old people don't play practical jokes on kids. And I suddenly realized that I am 17 years older than some of my staff members. Just like the Boss Lady was to us. And I'm stunned. I am stunned to be Mr. Miyagi and not Daniel-san. When did THIS happen? Now, I have worked this very job for 5 summers. How on Earth can I be shocked by this fact? Maybe it's the similarity in time frame. Maybe it's just because I was kidding myself. Maybe, although I'm not so young, I'm still kinda dumb.

But maybe it's because I figured some shit out about the Boss Lady and her trips into the Counselor's Cabin oh-so-long-ago.

A) It's a good way to know what those sneaky little bastards are up to.
B) It's a good way to let those sneaky little bastards know that you know what they're up to. Or at least to make them think you know.
C) It's a good way to get some gossip off of those sneaky little bastards because they don't know when to stop talking.

But, more than anything, I think what the Boss Lady knew, but never told, is this:

D) Those sneaky little bastards keep you young.

Seriously. Those damn kids who aren't really kids? They keep me young. They teach me constantly, and this pays off in my "real job" because I know what all my students are listening to, talking about, and obsessed with. Instantly makes that "real job" a hell of a lot easier. Every summer, they loan me a little bit of their cool factor and a lot of their energy. And they're funny. Randomly... awesomely... awkwardly... funny. When I watch them with their campers and with one another, my camp counselor days just don't seem that long ago. And that makes me feel young too. And happy. Overwhelmingly happy.

I don't know how long it will be until they discover that they can run away to their own version of the CC -- a place that is far too disgusting for an old fart like me to enter -- to spend their time-off. I don't know how many more nights this summer that they will gather in our office, order a pizza, and shoot the shit with the likes of me. I don't know how long I'll be able to put up with their shenanigans and dumbassery before I kick their broke asses out into the street because the other thing the Boss Lady never revealed? The Young and the Dumb ARE wearing and tiresome. (Come to think of it, she did go to bed really, really early when we were the Young and the Dumb.)

So there's a lot I don't know except for this: I know that it didn't happen tonight, and for that, I am grateful. They stayed, they made me laugh, and I didn't mind so much that they weren't right on time to return from break. And because of it -- instead of dragging ass up the stairs, crawling into bed, and dreading my alarm clock's call -- it's 1:30 AM, and I'm sitting up, listening to the crickets, seeming a lot closer to 19 than 34, and feeling happy. Overwhelmingly happy.


  1. Deaner, the f-bomb always equals cool with the younger crowd.
    And hello--she was born to carry a water bottle. I always thought she'd be the mom with the wide brimmed visor, water bottle in purse, snacks in zip lock bags etc. And maybe a wet nap.
    I miss camp. Though there is far less smoking at the Methodist camp.

  2. I love you and I love this post. I know I say that at every post, but each time a new one comes along it is my favorite. I am feeling terribly camp-sick today already and this post has put me over the edge.

    And yes, water bottles are handy, and yes, I will always share mine with you. Oh, and my kid, too. ;)

    PS--He misses his Aunt D.