Memories from summer camp: Dodgeball, peanut butter, and bodily fluids

I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t know what the frick to write about.   This sucks.

So, I think I will post about a blast from the past, the best job I ever had – a summer camp counselor.

This camp was a day camp for different age ranges of kids in the town I grew up in, run by the local park district.  One week we’d have Tadpoles (kids 4-6), and the next week we’d have a combo of Explorers (7-9) and Ohlones (10-13), and these weeks alternated.  Camp was always M-F, and the Tapoles went home around 1:30ish, but the older kids stayed later, and for Explorer/Ohlone week, on Thursday nights they’d all stay for an overnight campout extravaganza!

This camp was called Summer Nature Camp, and it freaking rocked.  Every day the counselors planned a different theme.  Examples of themes: Reptile Day, Bug Day, Pond Day (usually a Wednesday, when kids would get to wade into the pond and catch amazing creatures), Unpopular Animal Day (you know – bats, skunks, snakes), Bird Day, Ranger Day (kids got to dress up like the rangers and learn about what rangers do all day.  hint: not much.  we taught the kids to write parking tickets for our fellow camp counselors, for instance).  For Explorer/Ohlone weeks, on Thursdays we did a big day hike, followed by face painting and games, then a campfire and stories, followed by an epic game of capture the flag at night.  Friday was always Adventure Day, where the counselors would plan a plot where some sort of evildoer was planning harm to the park, its plants and animals, and to the campers themselves.  The campers would then have to do a series of tasks completely unrelated to the danger at hand (like a trust fall, and passing kids through sections of a giant spiderweb made of rope), and magically the danger would be vanquished by the end of the day!

Some days, I think I had more fun than the kids, if that was even possible.  Don’t tell my former boss, but this job was so cool that I probably would have done it for free.  Below are the best examples of what I learned from working at this camp several summers in a row.

1. The younger the child and the greater the number of children, the more they must be herded like sheep

Always place one counselor at the beginning, one at the end, and several spotters throughout.  Try not to nip at the kids’ heels; parents really hate that.

Herding done right

2. Kids are hilarious when you least expect it

Some of my favorite quotes over the years:

During dodgeball: It’s like the Civil War, and that side’s Europe!

I love it when kids share TMI:  My daddy wears bandaids on his nipples!

I’m this many (holds up 3 fingers) but mom says to say I’m this many (holds up four).   Remember the age limit to be a camper is 4.  Yeeeeah.

My who-who itches!   Another wonderful example of TMI.  Keep it coming, kids.

3. Whipped cream spoils incredibly quickly in the sun

At the very end of the week, the kids got to cash in their Counselor Cards they had earned throughout the previous few days.  Counselors wrote these cards for other fellow counselors and no one counselor got to write the card pertaining to veself.  As an example, one of my counselor cards once read:  Melissa is a birthing cow.  Please encourage her young to be born quickly and healthy by spraying Melissa with whipped cream for 10 seconds.

10 seconds never felt so long.

4. It sucks trying to get peanut butter out of hair

For some reason, peanut butter is also a proven method for helping cows safety birth their young.  Who’dathunk?

5.  They’d better invent mucous and blood free humans when I’m in the market for a newborn, cuz I can’t handle the bodily fluids

It was summer.  It was hot.  There were rubber balls flying about, and there were kids running.  Kids broke skin a lot, but what was literally gag-inducing for me was when fluids flowed freely from noses in particular.  Skinned knee?  No problem.  Broken arm?  Come here, I’ll make a splint.  Walk it off.  Rub some dirt in it.  Blood running out of your nose and down your shirt?  Hells no.  You’re on your own, kid.  Actually, stay here and hold my hair while I throw up.

6.  I will never be able to rid myself of the trauma I suffered playing dodgeball at camp

Imagine this: you’re the only counselor still left on your team full of small, defenseless campers.  The reason you’re the last counselor on this team is because career counselor K is on the opposing team, and you’ve been hiding behind the chunkier kids on your own team for fear of ball-to-face humiliation.  Now, counselor K is fucking terrifying when playing dodgeball.  Picture a gorilla, all bent over with arms swinging and a look of intense concentration with knowledge of victory across his face.  His eyes practically glowed red.  He’d wait for the perfect moment when I wasn’t behind a kid, trying to grab a ball for a smaller tyke, and then I’d see it.  The wind up.  My body initiated an involuntary response that involved me hunching over, arms in front of my boobs and face (gotta protect the goods), one leg comes up to protect the abdominal vital organs, and then the scream.  Blood-curdling doesn’t even begin to describe it.  Wait for shame-inducing SMACK of the rubber ball against my exposed thigh, and then the collective sighs of disappointment from the little shits on my team.  Thanks a lot, you guys.  Then I went and cried in the bathroom.  I still have nightmares that involve my mom suddenly turning into a gorilla and serving me eggs that smell of sweat-covered rubber.


12 responses

  1. Pingback: My Cup Runneth Over | Psychobabble

  2. I found this post snort out loud funny. I was a camp counsellor for spoilt Jewish kids. It was nowhere near as awesome as this though. I remember going to summer camp when I was little and loving it. Funny how on a different continent (I’m from South Africa) there are universal childhood experiences, like playing capture the flag at night except we called it stalk the lantern.

    Great post.

  3. that warmed the cockleshells of my heart! oh god, the counselor cards, i’d kinda blocked those out of my memory :) seriously just cracked the hell up

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