1. Camp friends are unlike any other friends you can possibly have. They are these curious, fantastic amazing things that you can’t explain to people that don’t have them. It sounds silly but this diversity in friendship is something that isn’t easy to recreate. My camp friends taught me all the words to Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Juicy’, how to almost do a cartwheel, the key to beating a 9 year old at tetherball… oh — and how to take a shot of Sambuca without gagging. Where else could I have learned that?
2. You get paid and get all the perks of being on site. I got paid $5.50 an hour at camp…but at camp, everything is free, so you don’t need money. So long as they didn’t start charging for being the boxball champion of the entire camp, every penny of that $5.50/hour went into my savings account. Or towards Smirnoff “Party Packs.”
3. You learn tricks like “Silent Ball,” which was our creation to keep the kids quiet while we were all simultaneously hung over. Since my best friends all worked at camp with me, our hangovers seemed to coincide. And for these days, I credit Justin Hannel with the invention of “Silent Ball.” (Justin also once spat half a bottle of vodka into my parent’s fireplace, nearly burning down the house… but for now I’ll focus on the positive). In case you couldn’t tell by the creative title of the game, the rules were pretty simple: Throw the ball and DON’T SPEAK. Incidentally, Silent Ball always ended with Justin and me cracking up and losing the game for everyone. Some days I wish I could organize a game of Silent Ball in my office… I dream…
4. You go actually camping. No one stays up all night. No one can bring in friends who aren’t registered with camp. No movies after 8. No one inside the camp building. No one brings their own food. Counselors sleep in rotating shifts. No one on the playground after 7. Overnight trips come with very strict rules that everyone goes out of their way to break.
5. You get to be in/see the talent shows. If you have never seen a summer camp talent show, I feel sorry for you. There is always the snooty nine year old girl that sings a 5 minute love ballad, the 7 year old boys that everyone loves who perform a magic show that makes no sense with the “cool” counselor… and then there’s the performance that isn’t appropriate for a summer camp talent show. The summer I was 17, that performance was a dance I choreographed for the 8 year old boys. The song was ‘Ridin Dirty’ by Chamillionaire. I really don’t know why I thought this was okay but the boys LOVED it. In a last ditch effort by the camp director to eliminate any drama from the day (I do commend her efforts) the performance was cancelled. The boys (and I) were devastated. So we staged a revolt and did the performance anyway- outside of the talent show auditorium- for all of the parents to see. And it was awesome.
6. Having a work uniform eliminates so many stressors. Now that my life is consumed with a never ending search for work suits that don’t make me look like a grandma and shirts that can go from 8am to Happy Hour without wrinkling, this might be what I miss most of all. At camp, my staff shirt was a really aggressive shade of forest green, which I paired with Soffee shorts. Every. Single. Day. That being said, a camp uniform is more like a suggestion. So it’s perfectly acceptable to show up in a Hannah Montana t-shirt you got from Walmart just because. This will never be okay in the real world.
7. You take field trips. While keeping track of kids can be a nightmare, but field trips are awesome. Yes, water parks are kind of dirty and petting zoos make you feel itchy all day. Get over it because they’re also REALLY fun. And don’t feel bad about losing a kid. They usually come back.
8. You play color war. Color war is the best because it is the opposite of real life. You spend the entire week dressed head to toe in your teams color and parade around chanting while playing tug of war, capture the flag, murderer and just about every other game that no one plays past the age of 12. Everyone gets overly excited and then realizes on Friday that no one has been keeping score. Who cares — pizza for everyone!
9. … And boxball. I’ll go ahead and say it: you can’t play boxball (“four square”) as an adult. It’s tragic, really. But at camp, when an 8 year old makes his way to that coveted king box and says “cherry bombs, popcorn, four corners but NO bus stops,” you put on your game face.
10. Summer nights at camp are perfect. These are nights of perfect content filled with moments of unshakable fulfillment. That last summer, my friend Jackie used to turn to me at such moments and say “we are living this moment right now!” as if to remind me of our monumental luck at happening upon summer and all that came with it. Nowhere else can you spend 6 hours sitting on a front porch with the same 7 people every night for three months without getting bored. You will learn more about your camp friends than you thought was possible. Their successes will become your successes. Their heartbreak will become yours. The songs that you listen to on these front porches, driving down these winding roads and collapsing in laughter in these rusty basements will forever take you back to these nights. That will be the best feeling- and it will never fade.