It’s As Cheesy As You Think . . .

but completely worth it and more fun than you can imagine. Of course, I’m speaking of summer camp. If you’ve ever spent time at one in any aspect, you know what I’m talking about. I was never a camper, I probably would have never been able to make it through a night away, let alone a whole two weeks. When I was younger, I would go to a sleepover and part way through the night my parents would have to come pick me up or a friend’s parent would have to drive me to my house because I missed home. Yeah, I was that kid. However, I did have two glorious summers working at two different camps as a counselor during my college years.

2001 Staff orientation, cabin 9. That’s me laying down there in the blue sweatshirt.

I chose camps on the East coast, more specifically ones just outside of New York City. It was my opportunity to get out of the Midwest for a bit, make a little (and I do mean a little) money, and get to spend some time before, during, and after camp in New York City. I was also having a horrible time on campus with my group of friends, and it was a nice distraction for a few months. Little did I know that first summer of camp would be life changing. That sounds awfully dramatic, and yes, sappy and sentimental, but anyone who has read this blog, knows I am unapologetically, both, sappy and sentimental. And that summer did truly change my life.

Courtesy of Timms Q.

I like to think that a lot of people have that experience of camp, for their own reasons and perhaps it takes years for some to realize it, although mine was instantaneous. The people, the fun, the lessons, and the general adventure all make for a significant and satisfying memory. I often wonder what I would be like today if I hadn’t took off for that adventure that first summer. Though I am so thankful I had that opportunity, and became the person I am now.

Fairview Lake was full of fun times, amazing people, challenges, silliness, songs,

Courtesy of Timms Q.

competition, and so much more. The generalities of camp in themselves were enjoyable. Think sitting around a campfire, someone with a guitar, and the air filled with singing. Again, it sounds like some idealistic fantasy, but it happens at camp, a lot. And it’s fun! To fully immerse oneself in such dripping with sentiment activities is surprisingly fulfilling. Try it sometime.

Courtesy of Timms Q.

Each morning after climbing out or down from a bunk, each cabin lines up to start the day, marching off to breakfast. The dining hall is one of those seemingly chaotic but strangely organized places at camp. Perhaps it’s the chatter of campers, the clank of trays and utensils, or the songs that come toward the end of the meal but it’s noisy and talkative and wonderful.

Courtesy of Timms Q.

As a counselor, you are in charge of certain activities. I taught tie-dye, basketball, and nature hikes. After two summers, I became the Queen of Tie-dye. Not a title I particularly like to brag about or own up to much, but it is what is. And for some reason someone thought I was good for leading nature hikes. Or maybe that was one of those activities they just stuck anyone in charge of because they couldn’t find anyone else to do it? Perhaps. I don’t recall ever losing a camper or anyone eating a poisonous berry or getting mauled by a bear, so I’ll take Queen of Nature Hikes, too, while I’m at it. Now the basketball, I knew what I was doing there (for once).

Courtesy of Timms Q.

I was also able to “assist” other counselors on the activities they led. And by assist, I mean sit and watch whatever they were teaching. Though some of the activities were fun to sit in on: gymnastics, dance, sign language, lacrosse, etc. Though I will warn you, don’t let me near the archery range. You do not want me handling pointy objects that fly through the air. You’ll thank me for the warning, trust me.

Times spent in the cabins could be precarious. Most of the time, fun was to

Courtesy of Timms Q.

be had, but other times, well, you can only imagine what it’s like having eight 13 year-olds inside a one room cabin. It was a bit scary for me, working with 13 year olds. That was a scary age for me myself, so it brought back a lot of bad memories and insecurities, but in the end things worked out and though there were spats and tears at times, everyone seemed to end on a good note with new experiences and a few lessons learned, including the counselors.

Courtesy of Timms Q.

There are some things that are acceptable at camp that probably wouldn’t be deemed so outside of it. Such as Color War. Fairview Lake divided campers and counselors alike into Red Sioux and Black Mohawks. The start of Color War had us waking up our campers in the middle of night with shouts and cheering, where everyone made their way to a large bonfire where they found out which team they were on. I was a Red Sioux, and still have my t-shirt proclaiming us Color War Champs. Once a Sioux, always a Sioux.

Color War was several days of various competitions. Volleyball games, capture the flag, races, song competitions, banner design, dance competitions, and more. . .finally culminating in the ultimate relay race. Everyone would dress in their team’s color, there would be cheers and chants, songs, and so much team pride and trying to outdo the other. Everyone participated, everyone got fired up, and was so enthusiastic about the event. I don’t think there was anyone who didn’t have a blast competing in Color War. Unit Pride Day was another time for each sector of camp to display, well, obviously, their pride in their unit. Camp taught having pride in what you do, and in working with others.

The big ball was big fun. That’s me right there in the middle.

All of the rituals and traditions that came along with camp were a great part of the experience. However, the best part of it for me were the people I met while there. I met some of the most wonderful people over those two summers, people who, even if I don’t speak to them on a regular basis now, I will never forget and always hold them fondly in my memories. People who I grew to know better than I had known some people I’d been around my entire life.

I look pretty good with silver hair.

That first summer I had a core group of five fellow counselors who grew to be the best friends I had and have ever known in my life. They were a huge part of the experience being life changing. They helped me grow and blossom, to find my voice, and showed me what true, unyielding friendship was. They were people who I felt uninhibited around and who I could share my thoughts with without judgment. They know who they are.

Outside of that great group of friends, both summers there were many interesting and nice people who I met at camp. There were counselors from all over the world and the United States. Each with a different story and perspective, each with something new to share. It was a marvelous opportunity to get to “travel around the world” without actually leaving the country. (That’s nice when you don’t have the money to physically travel the world.) I’d like to think there are some places around the world I could go and still get the offer of having a place to stay and being shown around. Hint hint.

I also learned a lot from my campers. Even through all the challenges or fights, there were still laughs and good times. Those 12 and 13 year olds I lived with those two summers were some of the funniest, smartest, goofiest kids. They added so much to my experience. Some of those girls I had the entire summer, eight weeks worth of getting to know them. I have found myself thinking about those girls occasionally over the years, they would now be in their twenties!

The memories and nostalgia I get from camp summers are some of the best I have stored in this cranium of mine. I’ll find myself flipping through photo albums of my fun, crazy adventures from back then and can’t help but get that warm fuzzy feeling inside. I look at those faces I spent all that time with over all those weeks, remembering smiles, stories, and talks. I will forever be thankful for every moment, whether it was good or trying, for helping me find part of myself and grow into the person I am today.

A big thanks to Timms Q. for letting me use some of her photos from camp. They look a lot nicer than my photos, all taken with a disposable camera at the time!
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8 thoughts on “It’s As Cheesy As You Think . . .

  1. Ten years later, I still remember Fairview Lake so clearly and treasure the memories we made there. Every year I watch Facebook to see what the outcome of Colour War is, silently hoping it is the Mohawks. Some of us could only be counselors there once, while others were lucky enough to return again and again. But no matter, we now may be spread all over the world, but that one summer binds us all together. Wonderful writing Kimmie!

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  2. It’s been five years since my two summers as drama director at Fairview Lake. I also sit on facebook for two solid days of the year (not so silently cheering for Mohawks) waiting for the outcome of color war.
    Too often, my husaband and family tease me because the first words to almost every story are “One time, at camp…” They just don’t understand.
    Camp changed me too. From a quiet follower to a leader who always seems to make friends everywhere. My lesson from camp? Live it up! Just like camp, tis moment won’t be around for long. After that, you’ll only have stories about how everyone else had fun, or how your cabin cling-wrapped the boys into their cabin.
    Thanks for the flash back. I needed that.

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  3. I would like to use your story on the FVL website to share the profound impact camp has on people. Would you mind if I copy this page? Or you could submit via our site. My ph# 973 758 9622.

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