It was just a Tuesday. Who could predict such a thing on a random Tuesday afternoon?
Her name was Laurie Johnston, and she was the director of a Campfire Boys and Girls camp in the metroplex area. Our first conversation included a vague disapproval of my Girl-Scoutiness. I did not like her at all. Luckily for her (and me), her brilliant assistant, Kyle, hired me anyway.
|LJ the Doubter and Kyle the Brilliant|
She scared the holy hell out of me those first two summers when I was a cabin counselor, but there were flashes of a wicked sense of humor. Her most famous prank included a day-long stay in the Counselor's Cabin with a dead snake on a string. She'd hide it under a chair or yank the string and make a few grownfolks pee their pants -- either out of fear or laughter. Then, a couple new suckers would come in on their time off and the whole process would repeat itself.
|LJ loves to laugh. Uncontrollably so.|
When I joined the ad staff in my 3rd summer, I found that she wasn't quite as intimidating as I had once believed. In fact, she was kind and supportive and funny. She was innovative with how she dealt with kids, and she trained her staff really, really well. Mainly, she trained us to just trust our gut, make a decision, and follow-through. I truly believe that trust guides us all in our careers to this very day.
|Camp Mom, Camp Director, two old Camp Counselors, and a future camper|
|Two of her favorite boys|
|LJ and another favorite, Sophia|
|Just a few of her El Tesoro staff|
|LJ, Jamie, and Alison|
|LJ and some of her Camp Carter counselors|
|Baby Hoggin' with Meyer|
Laurie is salt on the glass and sugar in the salsa. She is guitar strings and fine china. She is Nivea lotion, Hershey kisses, and Diet Coke. She is a nature girl from the heart of the big city. She is bluebonnets and cedar trees and campfire smoke. She is the pack leader for the Co-dependent Dog Society. She is reality t.v. and flannel pajama pants and flowerdy shorts. She is John Denver and buttercream icing and church giggles.
|The iconic guitar.|
|Leading songs at El Tesoro de la Vida|
She is terrible at accents and dishonesty and kicking footballs. I mean really terrible.
In the past 16 years, Laurie has been a mentor, a mom, a big sister, a spiritual guide, a confidante, and a boss. She's been a pain in the ass, a saving grace, a ceremonial figurehead, a life-saver, and a brutal truth-teller (it's her sacred duty, y'all). And she's been one of the best friends I've ever known.
|Pat and LJ|
|Pat and LJ, pickin' and grinnin'|
She's been one of the best friends that a lot of people have known.
|The Johnston Girls -- circa "Way Back When"|
|The Johnston Girls -- circa "Not So Long Ago"|
|LJ and her Ray Bean Girls|
|LJ and her El Tesoro Girls|
**Clarification: LJ is NOT terrible at actual accents, but when someone speaks to her in a distinct accent, she absolutely cannot resist/control answering them back in the same accent. If you're British, she'll bloody answer you back as if she's the Queen herself. If you're a country bumpkin, she's gonna bumpkin you right back. If you're a German cardiologist, she'll get elbowed in the ribs by me so as not to offend him. But it's pretty hysterical -- especially when she doesn't realize she's doing it.