Shira with her Tribals team’s plaque.
Let me list all the clichés: the wind is howling outside my dorm room window as I write this, I’m listening to old alma maters, Facebook’s recent memories are showing me that I left camp 3 months ago to the day.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in my life right now, but this past summer taught me how to deal with uncertainties. Wrangling 90 LTs (“the children”) with a co-staff of six was no easy task. We had classic mix ups like bringing the kids to The Playhouse (when it was the Garden) and the Garden (when it was the Playhouse), but we all came out on the other end tanner, stronger, and happier.
More clichés: on really tough days and even on not-so-tough days, I scroll through photos from this summer … and last summer … and the summer before that. I listen to all the songs my girls have put in the massive Google Doc labeled “Triple Crown Ideas 2017!!!” I ignore the emails reminding me to pre-register for next semester, I procrastinate writing my final papers, I pretend that I don’t need to start applying for my concentration. I read old yearbook notes.
“Are you coming back?”
It’s the worst question. It hovers over the table during late-night My Place runs. It lingers in the Common Room while you sit on duty with your girls. It hits you like a bus on the last morning when that junior camper gives you a bear hug and tearfully looks into your eyes while clinging to your chest.
There’s an inverse relationship between the impact of the question and the certainty of your answer: as you get older and older, that simple ask digs deeper and deeper into your chest, and your response wavers as the summers churn on by.
I posted in my girls’ Facebook group last month, explaining that I had received a life-changing internship offer and that I would not be returning to camp.
“Being your counselor and friends has literally redefined who I am as a person,” I wrote. “Which of course begs the question, ‘Why would you not come back to camp?’”
I’ve checked all the boxes at Schodack: I was a camper, a CIT, a bunk counselor, an activity counselor, LT Staff. I’ve painted a couple dozen dedication plaques and a few more Tribals plaques. I spent five mind-bogglingly exhilarating days as a Tribals general alongside three of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever met – two of whom I grew up with at camp. I’ve won Apache. I’ve stargazed on the tennis courts, I’ve run around in yellow rain boots and tutus, I’ve made handshakes with 44 girls, I’ve danced and sung “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in the rain with my campers.
I’ve gotten up early and gone to bed late, worked 18-hour days, 6-days a week, come home early from days off to spend more time with my kids. I’ve made best-friendships and more memories than my brain can remember or my heart can hold.
I’ve gotten to do it all in a short 12-summer tenure. So why come back once again, even though that Apache will never be run again, even though those best-friendships are opting to do internships instead, and even though some of my girls are now in the Schodack Staff 2017 Facebook group with me?
Every summer from here on out is just a cherry on top. My memory-making is coming a close, but I want to be there to ensure my girls have every opportunity to make those same memories. I want to be there for their water fight with behind the Lodge. I want to cheer them as they go down the waterslide while it’s torrentially down-pouring. I want to watch them fall in love with being a counselor.
No internship could be as life-changing as realizing that your purpose in life is to work with children and encourage that same sense of curiosity, excitement, passion, dedication and love that was once cultivated in you by your counselors. Let my peers work for senators, travel the globe, intern in hospitals. I’ll be with my kids.