I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this summer. I feel entirely unprepared for watching and entertaining small children. I’m supposed to be a role model for them, but I’m not role model material. I’m good “friend who comes over at one am to watch Great British Bake-Off” material, but that’s not very role-model- like. Maybe I should’ve talked to someone who has camp counselor experience under their belt so they could warn me about the perils that I will come to experience. Okay, I bet it won’t be that terrible, but my mind wanders and I’m writing in pen, so I don’t care to scribble out that exaggeration.
Do you know anyone who liked being a camp counselor? Said it was the best experience in the world? I need a morale boost.
The thing is, I was really looking forward to being a counselor until this week. I went to camp for a few summers and loved it. I remember writing you letters then too. And I remember there being this magic about camp. That magic is still here, but now I have to be a really cool counselor and I’m pretty sure that nobody describes me as “really cool.” It’s just a lot of pressure, that’s all.
And it’s scorching out here. No air conditioning in a Texas summer camp. I’m perpetually sweaty and it’s gross. There is a lake, though. The breezes don’t help combat the heat much, but it sure is a pretty view. The kind of view you would think about setting up a picnic next to with your significant other. How is Cat, by the way? Are you guys going to attempt long distance next semester?
Also, I feel like I forgot to mention that the campers aren’t here yet (and I’m already panicking). They arrive tomorrow…
I’ll keep you posted, Ollie. I miss you already!
Enclosed in this care package is
1. a bottle of lavender essential oil (because you need to chill out)
2. a package of stickers (for bribing campers)
3. deodorant (self-explanatory)
4. my famous home-made chocolate chunk cookies (that long-distance-Cat helped me bake)
Cabin 13, that’s my cabin, is now in the full swing of camp, complete with 12 fourth grade girls and their stressed-out counselor. But the stickers as bribery worked nicely. Thank you a million times. How did you know that trick? Are you secretly a camp counselor at a rival camp? Is this exchange of letters treasonous? If so, treason would be worth the cookies.
I even shared the cookies with my new friend to spread the treason.. That’s right, anxious Stella is making friends! Maddi is the counselor of Cabin 10. This is her second summer being a counselor, but last year it was at a symphony camp in Pennsylvania. She said that she’s happy to be away from Vivaldi and expensive violins. I asked her for advice on being a counselor and she told me that if the girls in your cabin are drama free, life’s a breeze. So, life’s a breeze in Cabin 13. Cabin 10 is a whole other story…
What’s going on in Cabin 10? Oh, just a cult. A gay cult, according to Maddi. She’s a little frazzled. Beethoven didn’t prepare her for this.
A few girls have decided to hang a giant pride flag in the cabin and proclaim that the lake is where they will hold their gay baptism later this week. My opinion on the matter – love wins, but these girls need to remember that we’re in rural Texas. I’m counting my lucky stars that this didn’t happen in my cabin.
We have counselor mixers every Tuesday night. The point of them is to spend time with people that aren’t in fourth grade and to give advice about being a counselor. We just tell wild stories about our campers, though. One of the guy counselors, Matthew, shared a story about how his campers rummaged through his stuff, found a letter from his mom, took the address, and wrote her letters. I’m dying to know what they say, but Matthew is still waiting for his mom to report all the details of the probably ridiculous letters to him.
I’ve learned that Maddi’s a fan of practical jokes, and as you’ll remember from our senior year prank fiasco, I am not. (I’m never gonna forgive you for not giving me a heads up to when the prank was occurring. Seniors are supposed to prank the school, not be pranked by other seniors.)
I was showering after my girls had fallen asleep the other day. The communal bathrooms are quiet at night, almost tranquil. I heard Maddi yell my name, but I ignored her because I was enjoying my peaceful, cold shower. Later she told me why she had yelled my name: she went to brush her teeth when she saw a little girl holding a ginormous frog. The girl asked Maddi where she should put the frog (if I was there, my question would be why she was holding the frog in the first place…), and Maddi decided that she wanted to scare me by placing a frog in my stall. How nice, right? But I didn’t say anything, so Maddi wasn’t able to carry out her prank. As she told me later, “If you had said yes, I would’ve walked into your shower with a small child and a very large frog.”
Ollie, I still miss you, though I’m enjoying life here. I miss meeting for coffee at that trendy place down the street and discussing our tragic love lives (though yours is looking pretty optimistic right now!). It’s too hot for chai lattes, so coffee shops will have to wait until I return.
Later this week is the first camp dance, and I’ve got an off night. I’ll tell you how it goes.
Enclosed in this care package is
1. some oil blotting sheets (so that you look presentable on your off night)
2. mints (in case you kiss a hot guy counselor at the dance)
3. a mini pride flag (for the irony)
4. a pen with frogs on it (write me more funny stories)
This week, oh my goodness. A lot has happened.
First with my campers – let’s just say I had a whole lot to share at the mixer this week. My campers aren’t brushing their hair. It’s been a week of camp and a few of them have literal rat nests on their heads. I spent Thursday night inspecting everyone’s hair. And after lights out, I spent a whole hour brushing knots out by the light of a lantern. So, I’m exhausted and not happy. These girls are ten years old and not brushing their hair! At ten years old, during your long hair phase, even you brushed your hair!
I had my off-night with Maddi. We ventured into town to a diner. Very 1950s of us. After milkshakes and grilled cheese, we drove to a park on the other side of the lake, about a mile away from camp. A spot frequented by most of the counselors. We plopped down on the grass and stargazed. I could see the Big Dipper and the North Star. Those are the only celestial things I know about.
We talked for a while - about camp, about college, about friends. I told her about you, my amazing best friend from home. It turns out, most people don’t stay best friends with the people who sat next to them in kindergarten. I guess we’re lucky, Ollie. She told me about her boyfriend from high school – they’re still together and are going to attempt long distance. We talked about our cabins. Her cult has died down. No more girls with frogs have been spotted. It was a new moon that night, which I think made for better stargazing. Maddi missed the moon; she wanted to explain her love for Swiss cheese in relation to it.
Last night was the dance. I helped all my campers braid their hair and listened to them talk about their dates. I don’t think I ever went through a boy-crazy phase. The same cannot be said for these girls. They’re like you in your girl-crazy phase. Well, how you acted around everyone but me, at least. (Remember after the third girlfriend in a month, your parents asked if you were going to date me and you said, “Eww, gross. Stella’s my best friend.”) I didn’t open the mints you sent me because I was being realistic. Thanks for believing in me, though.
Everyone was at the dance, from campers to counselors. Some of my campers liked to follow me around and ask if I was going to dance with a boy. They finally stopped when Taylor Swift started playing. (Not gonna lie, I kind of like her new album. Please don’t judge, Ollie.) That’s when Matthew tapped on my shoulder.
I don’t think I described him earlier, but Matthew is the kind of boy that’s really cute, in a nerdy kind of way. I said hi, and asked him if he ever heard back from his mom about the letters his campers sent. He laughed and said he had, and that she sent all the letters back to him to read. And then –
He asked me to dance! I freaked out. When has a boy ever asked me to dance? Trick question, the answer is never. And you’d be proud, Ollie. I didn’t hyperventilate. I smiled and said yes. Matthew and I danced to Taylor Swift singing about heartbreak and my campers screeched when they saw their “super cool counselor dancing with a really cute boy.” That’s in quotes because one of my campers told me that later. I was really happy. It was a great night.
And I should’ve brought the mints with me.
Enclosed in this care package is
1. a friendship bracelet that says “super cool counselor”
2. a piece of Swiss cheese shaped like the moon
3. a hairbrush
4. more mints
It all ends tomorrow. That sounds ominous. What I mean to say is that camp ends tomorrow.
And I miss it, even though it hasn’t ended. Things feel temporary now.
My campers say that I am their favorite counselor. I’m their only counselor, but I’ll take the compliment. They’ve brushed their hair this last week, thank god. We’ve gossiped as a cabin before lights out. These girls have crazy social lives with love triangles, exes, and too much craziness for me to comprehend. My love life was nonexistent until now.
You’re probably curious, so I’ll answer your question. Me and Matthew are a thing now. Maddi insisted that we invite him on our next off-night – back to the diner and back to stargazing. We went when there was a full moon. Matthew knows a lot about stars; he studies astronomy. So nerdy. I love it.
We’ve decided to try to make long distance work over the year. Part of me thinks that we won’t be as magical outside of camp, but I’ll try to stay optimistic.
The camp presented the award for best counselor at our last mixer. It wasn’t me. Or Maddi, or Matthew. And we’re all okay with that. I knew I wasn’t going to be the best counselor, but I think I did a pretty good job.
I gifted Maddi the pride flag you sent to remember her cabin by. She isn’t going to miss them.
I’ve missed you, Ollie. I can’t wait to see you soon, but I wish I didn’t have to leave here first.
Enclosed in this care package is
Not in this package, of course. More like on the road outside of camp on the last day. It’s only a five hour drive to your camp from my driveway.
Shelby Edison is a writer and literature enthusiast attending Washington University in St. Louis to pursue a degree in English with a concentration in creative writing. She has performed her poetry all over Houston, Texas. When not writing or wandering through her local bookstore, she can be found musing about National Parks, stargazing, and playing Dungeons & Dragons.