“Our last night on the island. I drew fire watch.”
— Private Joker, Full Metal Jacket
Tonight meant dinner with the Camp’s Director in the Resort’s on-site Steakhouse, ostensibly as a way to “apologize” for the leaky roof in my original room. Being happy that I was moved, and now with clothes that were fully dry, this gesture was wholly unnecessary, in my opinion. On the other hand, 8 ounces of filet mignon later, again totally unnecessary, I considered ways in which I could have other things happen to my luggage for a free dinner, should I come back to 6th grade camp next year.
It looks like my partner, who is the grade level team leader for 6th grade, is already hoping to book 2013 now, to give us the choice of dates going forward. As we don’t have to share space with another school, this camp gives us some measure of exclusivity, in that we don’t have to share with another school unless we book in that way. Certainly, the past two years of experiences have put to death any notion about some of the nightmares I had heard of their time in past 6th grade camps. The counselors handle nearly all of the kids’ instruction and activities, and our job is merely to be the friendly face from home, the interested observer, as well as taking the kids for a hour in the afternoon, when the counselors change shifts.
Unlike yesterday, when the rain meant inside activities for our hour, and we were more concerned with staving off hypothermia among the kids as well as ourselves, today’s sun means we can take the kids out to the grassy area in front of their cabins to run them a bit. We choose to play dodge ball and crab soccer. In the meantime, we learn more about the kids’ afternoons, as a number of them went on their long hike today. Of course, one boy, L., from T.’s class, is full of his story about falling out of his canoe out in the cement pond. But then he embellishes the story, talking about losing consciousness and not remembering how he fell in. I then learn that he turned an ankle the day before but after spending some time with the camp nurse, felt well enough to participate today. I had L.’s older brother years before, and remembering how his brother had been with me, with respect to how he treated the girls in my class, and coupling that with the camp’s nurse, an attractive younger girl, and it all makes sense. He’s crushing on the nurse.
At this point, one of my girls, A., takes a soccer ball off of her face. T. and I initially think her nose is broken, if not bloody, but fortunately for her, she’d managed to deflect it enough to have it only glance off of her eye. Still, it hurt, and she heads over by her cabin door to sit things out. Meanwhile, the nurse, who is trying to make sure that L. is OK. We immediately direct her over to my kid, A., who shows the nurse that she can tough it out and is fine. L. sees the nurse, and back come the stories about his apparent loss of consciousness, with his friend trying to explain to the nurse that L. had amnesia. She is a very patient person, very soft-spoken and empathetic, so she listens to what they have to say, eventually talking to one of my other students to confirm what really happened in the canoes. But L., seeing that he’s got yet another chance to bond with the camp’s nurse is walked back to up to her office upstairs in the dining hall, no doubt considering himself the luckiest boy in the world.
“Um, no”, I think, since I’m the one getting the steak dinner with my teaching partner, while the kids are getting a pizza night.
Dinner turns out to be well-worth the time drying my clothes from the leaking ceiling. It is easily one of the better steaks I’ve had in recent memory. (Pity that the distance is too far from home to take Amber for an evening; a chance to bring her here would have to involve some doing…) We spend two hours discussing camp, life back home, life at camp, and camp next year. The Camp Director, after now dealing with him for 2 years, seems like a genuinely nice person to work with to try to bring a unique experience for kids who haven’t necessarily been given much in the way of unique experiences in the neighborhoods around our school.
When our dinner ends, and fortified for the cold, even with the roaring campfire, my partner and I head off to watch the final night’s campfire and cabin skits. You can tell just how much the kids are both enjoying this final communal time as well as how little in their tank they have left as the counselors run them through songs and skits. But overall, despite my own misadventures with the cold and the rain, it was never about me in the first place. My memories are nothing compared to what these kids will take home with them tomorrow. Just like I remember my own camp experiences from 1974, these kids will likely do the same with their own memories.
It’s time to pack my stuff and get ready for one final night of watching the lamps outside my window creep into my room as I try to sleep. But I get to go home tomorrow as well. I’m too old to be homesick, but not too old to want to be at home. It’s time.