Monday, August 29, 2011

Back in One Piece and Then Some

I'll confess something to you: I've really been back from Colorado for a few weeks and I haven't posted about my summer until now. Partly because I've been ruminating--there's too many fantastic stories to share here. And partly because I've found myself in a show, but that's for another post. This one's just for Colorado and the kids and the snake outside my cabin door.

I had a really good feeling about the coming summer when my friend Heather and I pulled into the camp and there was a pasture of horses and snow still topping the mountains. Needless to say, it was a hell of a lot better than driving through Kansas. It's funny to look back on the first day, the first meeting of the program coordinator while he helped me move in--who I would end up loving after two months, going on a hike led by the day counselor who would have me in constant laugh attacks. And then there's my fellow cabin counselor, Danielle, who I now can't imagine what it was like not knowing her.

Getting to hang out with the other counselors for training week probably lulled us into a false sense of comfort. And then the campers came. I really haven't had much experience with kids, aside from recently taking on babysitting a 2 year old, but I knew that was nothing like wrangling teenyboppers. To be honest, I was terrified. And nothing makes me happier than to say I was totally wrong to feel that way.
These are my Junior campers. We battled homesickness and sick tummies and 4th of July heat together. We played improv games in the common room and re-enacted Disney movies in less than 3 minutes (or 5.. or 10 as it sort of turned out). And oh muh wuuuurd did they make me laugh--impressions of teachers and chasing staff with their sweatpants pulled up under their armpits. After two weeks, I felt like we had spent months together and if the love they had for each other wasn't apparent yet, it certainly was when they had to say goodbyes. I love to hear about Mayana's latest achievement in horseback riding or Kat Ann's audition success and I hope they will all keep me updated.

Two days after my Juniors left, we were inundated with Young Artist Intensive campers, aged 13 to 16. You thought I was nervous before? Again, how wrong I was.
Talk about a cabin full of laughs! These girls constantly surprised me with their outstanding maturity. I always got such warm fuzzies when I heard them encouraging each other through the tough parts of not only being 13, but being a performer on top of it--the word "beautiful" has never been used so sincerely. I loved that they would carry their headshots around with them (which probably cost more than I got paid for the whole summer) and that I busted into the common room because I heard one of them say "You're an asshole!" only to find that they were working on a scene. I have such fond memories of the day we went rafting and we totally threw the concept of "camp appropriate" out the window. They are so dedicated to their work and their open hearts will take them far. I can't wait to see where they land.

And then there were my fellow counselors...
...who rode horses with me, gave each other a place to vent, made hot chocolate in the kitchen while the kids were dancing in the Green Room, got me to have a wedding folder on my desktop, appreciated bathroom humor, endlessly abbreviated words with me (I still get texts), brainstormed hypothetical plays (Immunization: the Musical), shared books, sat on the office porch, made awkward jokes...

It's not to say that there weren't times when my patience was tried. There were days that I wanted nothing more than a movie with my boyfriend and my cat. There was a point where I was so mad I was in tears. And I was often put in a position of not knowing what the plan was and having to pretend I did for my campers. But this summer was such a gift because of my kids. No matter what happened, I found myself fighting for them before myself. It made it worth any crap that I had to wade through to see them make silly faces at me or to see one of the more reserved girls step out of her shell or to watch them dance and act bravely and confidently.

I told myself that I would probably never go back, but when one of my girls told me over facebook that she wants to go back to Perry-Mansfield, but she really wants to be in my cabin again... It makes me seriously reconsider...

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