One of the best things about spending my summers at an overnight camp is the staff. Of course the campers are fun (obviously) and we live on a lake (nice) but the staff—well, there’s nothing like being around a bunch of people in their 20’s. At home we don‘t see much of that age group. They‘re mostly working or at college. But when camp time rolls around, our lives are inundated with millenials, and I love it.
When I first started dating my husband, I was only about 10 years older than most of the staff so I could hang. I didn’t party with them (I’m not a total loser) but the gap wasn’t so wide that they didn’t invite me. Now, after many years of being here, I’m old enough to be their mom.
I’m not really sure how that happened.
I’m old enough to be their mom, but I could never be their mom. I’m not there yet. I’m still telling my kids to wash their hands after they pee. How in the hell could I be a mom to a freakin’ 21 year old? I still think I’m 21! If it’s true that you “grow with your kids” (and I don’t know if that’s true or not, I just made it up right now) then that is very good news for me because my kids are still little.
I don’t really mind that I‘m getting older (outside of the fact that my back hurts all the time and my forehead has more lines than a legal pad) but for the most part, I don’t mind. What’s more, I still remember my past lives—especially my 20’s.
Sure, the styles have changed, the music is different, and the world is more technologically advanced—but on balance, things really haven’t changed all that much: Kids still get tattoos in places that are going to look scary when they’re 70, “Beer Goggles“ still have the same prescription, and the girls all have “a very serious boyfriend” until someone hotter comes along.
Camp counselors are fun because they are also (from what I can see) loving their 20’s.That makes me happy. I want everyone to love their 20’s. It’s such a fun time. You’re in this sort of unsteady place of “elongated childhood.” You’re not quite an adult (but you think you are), yet you’re no longer a child. You don’t have to completely commit to anything because time is on your side, but if you do commit, and you bail, that speaks volumes because your 20’s is when you start to build character.
I remember my 20’s as a time when I didn’t need a lot to make me happy. I needed my friends, “Stupid Movie Night,” and a Bill Knapps cake for my birthday. My needs were very simple.
Thankfully, I am reminded of my 20’s every day during the summer because I’m surrounded by a ton of staff who are that age. Some of them we have history with, so when my girls and I see them after a long off-season, a huge hug and a game of “Break the Pickle” makes it seem like just yesterday. Some of them are new and we love when they introduce themselves, but we understand when they don’t. We’ll get to them sooner or later and we will undoubtedly adore them (unless they suck and then we won’t).
But what a life for us to be surrounded by this group of 20 somethings, these people of tomorrow who chronologically make up the perfect age split between me and my kids…
How lucky are we?
When I’m at camp, I never have to schlep my luggage or carry my bags because if “V Rockin’ Cool” sees me, he will always offer to do it. When I’m here, my kids are always included on boat rides because the waterfront staff knows how much they love being by the water. And when I’m here, I’m safe letting my kids and my dog, Floyd Coden, roam around because there is always someone around who has an eye on them.
My 4 year old daughter currently has two “boyfriends” at camp and they are both in their 20’s. A 20 year age difference might normally be frowned upon in this country, especially if one of the kids is 4-years-old, but camp has its own set of rules. One summer, a few years ago, when my older daughter was four, she almost made it down the aisle to marry her longtime “boyfriend,” ScottyG. He was around 26 years old and he was a Unit Director (She likes guys in power positions.) Unfortunately for ScottyG, my girl bailed at the last minute and ran to her daddy—but that wedding, at the flag pole, with a full wedding party and the whole camp in attendance, was an event to be remembered.
During our time here, I get two nannies. (Stop it. I know that sounds fancy but it’s really not. They’re like “counselors” for my kids. I would never have them at home but I need them here so I can work.) Anyway, I have been unbelievably fortunate in the nanny department because almost every single one of the girls we have had have done nothing but enrich the lives of my girls and my family. They are our family. I can’t even begin to explain my love for these girls. Thankfully this season we are completely in love again. I’m just not sure if they were hired for my kids or for me.
Actress Nanny: (standing in our cabin, wearing really cute boots, kicks up a leg and shows me the boots): Aren’t these boots cute?
Me: Yes, SO cute. Where did you get them? (A little skeptical because she is in her 20’s and, as it should be when you’re in your 20’s–her ass is broke).
Actress Nanny: I got them at one of the dollar stores in Kalkaska (the town outside of where camp is).
Me: No, you didn’t. I want them.
Bama Nanny: (My other nanny. She’s from Alabama.): So cute right! They were only 20.00!!
Me: 20.00?? Take me. NOW.
And they did. We pleaded for my kids to come with us, but they had no desire to leave camp, so we left them there. The store didn’t have my size but an 8 is close to a 7 when it comes to 20.00 boots and you better believe I bought them and I’m going to ROCK them (but probably only once because they will likely fall apart shortly thereafter).
The Kitchen Staff is also very important. The K-Staff needs to be fun, not just for camp, but for me. I spend a lot of time in the Mess Hall and in the kitchen. I love food (and we have good food at camp) and sometimes I want everything. But I can’t have everything, so over the years I have been recruited “Finishers“ to help me out. (Finishers are people I go to if I only want a few bites of something–but I don’t want to waste it–so I make him eat the rest.)
Anyway, The K Staff needs to know me and they need to love me. Actually, they don’t even need to love me, they just need to put up with me.
There is always action at the trapeze so it’s always a good place to hang out. (We have a trapeze at camp, crazy right?) One of the trapeze guys is named Spencer. This is Spencer’s 3rd summer at camp. When I tell you that Spencer is ripped, he is RIPPED. So, of course I am all over him about it. He’s a bit older than the rest of the staff so it’s not quite as gross and perverted as it would be if he was 22, but still, where else but camp can you sexually harass an employee EVERY SINGLE TIME you see him, and not only does he not care, but he doesn’t even notice? My own kids are so immune to my bugging Spencer that they honestly believe his given name is “Spencer-Take-Your-Shirt-Off!”
And then comes our Camp Driver. Where do I start? For as long as I can remember, the Camp Driver (aka “Thinggetter”) has been a part of our family, even before we were a family. One of our past Camp Drivers (also a “Finisher” by the way) is getting married at camp—to one of our former nannies— in August and my girls are their flower girls. Another one of our old Drivers was just at our house playing “school” with my daughters, and another one of our Drivers still thinks he can beat me at rummicube after all these years, but he’s wrong. Our current Driver is so special, I wish he was my son and I’m ready to fight his mom anytime, anywhere.
Anyone who owns a business knows that your business is only going to be as good as your staff… and I want our current staff and past staffs to know how much I appreciate all the hard and “heart” work they do for us. I love you all.
Unless you suck.
And then I don’t.
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