Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I'll be honest, being an older person at UBC has its downfalls. One of them is the question that gets asked a lot around this time of year, which is, "So, what are you doing for the summer?" My canned reply, complete with laughter so as to give the impression that I'm approaching my answer with some degree of detached silliness, is that "Once you graduate college, the question 'What are you doing for the summer,' has no relevance." I pretend like this doesn't bother me, but I actually miss those good old evangelical sub-culture summers.

For six years I worked at a camp (THIS ONE, to be exact,) and although the hours and labor could be quite grueling, and the pay equivalent to that of a third world peasant, it could sometimes feel as if we weren't working at all, but rather enjoying a nice retreat from our everyday worlds. This is, of course, an oversimplified and romanticized view of things, but it's what I remember.

Our days were planned out for us. We met, as a staff, at 7:00 for Bible Study and then breakfast. The next couple of hours was spent serving breakfast for campers and cleaning up. We would repeat the meal duties for lunch and dinner, and in between, perform various tasks from recreational sports to moving heavy steel beams from one place to another.

Our meals together were filled with stories, planning the day ahead, silence, and boisterous laughter.

We were young and, in a sense, learning about how the world worked, but from the confines of our safe plot of land in a valley carved into the East Texas forest. Looking back, it almost felt like we were playing pretend. Like children play "house" or "doctor," we had one foot into reality with the other in our imaginary play world.

For all practical purposes, we were monks and nuns, but of the Baptist variety. Those who came to visit us looked up to us. Because we wore Jesus on our shirts, and sang the pretty songs, there must have been something that seemed "set apart" about us. This, of course, was not true.

For most of the summer, we lived and worked together. We fought, formed our factions (mine= The Holier-Than-Thou faction,) and would often get swept up in the conflicts of adolescence.

But we were also family for each other. This, of course, was another exercise in pretend, because all young people love to treat others who are not their family like they are. This, perhaps, helps assuage our guilt for how we really feel about, and treat, our real families. If we're lucky, though, it also can serve to assist us in dealing with those in our gene pool.

We are all over the map now. Geographically, Philosophically, Theologically-- most of us are in places incompatible with the culture of that old world of ours. But we miss it still. Some of us continue to talk, but mostly our contact is relegated to the once-every-few-years run-in. When these happen, there's remembrance and there's understanding. We ask about so-and-so, tell about how we ran into this-or-that person years back, express our regrets that certain people couldn't make it to the funeral.

This summer I'll be doing what I did last summer, and every other season for that matter. Working hard. Trying to find ways to take stock of my life-- where it's been, where it's going. Maybe I'll crack open the bible some mornings at seven. There'll be meals with the same laughter from years past. (Some will include beverages that were unmentionable back then.) Songs sung, jokes told, we'll come out of the other side of the heat-season different. Transformed. Closer to the real thing than when we started.


Carn-Dog said...

I never had the camp experience like y'all talk about. I guess that's the downfall of the north.

Katy said...

Suddenly wishing I could spend a couple weeks as a counselor at Iron Springs...

Melissa P. said...

The intro to summer used to be HUGE - the only way I could tell it had even arrived were the kids playing outside during the day, and no blinking lights at school zones. Exciting!

Camp for me was much the same - I was a counselor at Pine Cove. Those were the good old days...