I have a confession to make: I am deep in the middle of post-summer camp blues. Campers and staff, and possibly many Canteen parents, understand this feeling. It’s different than being knee deep in post-summer blues. The post-summer blues (which usually come around January and February) suggests missing the feeling of grass in between my toes on the athletic field, or the cool feeling of the lake on a hot day. For me it is distinctly different than the August and September post-summer camp blues. The post-summer camp blues are the camp memories and feelings I can remember so vividly it could have happened yesterday. Only camp ended three weeks ago and school is just around the corner. The post-summer camp blues are when you obsessively make plans with your camp friends for every free weekend, and you sing the Birkat Hamazon in your head (or out loud) after every meal. Sentences frequently start with “this summer at camp…” Eventually, as school picks up, these feelings start to fade. But for now, the post-summer camp blues are in full swing.
Last week, as I was really experiencing the post-summer camp blues, I got a text message from my summer roommate. She was going to be in Boston as part of her post-camp American travels, and she wanted to meet up. I met her, her boyfriend, and two other summer staff on a quiet, sunny day in Harvard Square. We spent the next couple of hours wandering around downtown Boston, and it was just the type of fun I needed. Even though I hadn’t been close with everybody traveling in the group (the consequence of being in two different departments during the summer!) it still felt right. We might not have all spent time together during the summer, but spending an afternoon together laughing and joking about all the absurdities that happen at camp felt like home.
As a camper, the days after camp ends were always filled with sleepovers and play dates with just camp friends. My friends and I would spend hours together in my living room laughing over nonsensical inside jokes and singing camp songs in an effort to re-create that effervescent summer feeling. And maybe you would be surprised to know (or probably not, given the readership demographic of this blog!) but as a staff member, we crave the same thing. Every summer, in the weeks after camp ends, my Facebook newsfeed is clogged with photos of staff taking post-summer trips together. In fact, just this week I scrolled past a photo of two camp supervisors sporting their staff t-shirts at the very top of Machu Picchu. I found myself unable to contain my smile at the sight of them wearing their camp shirts in Peru.
Summer is over, and while we are all deep in the middle of post-summer camp blues, the magic of camp is currently being re-created both in living rooms at home and the far reaches around the world. My summer home might be closed for the next ten months, but the people who embody its spirit are really just a phone call or mouse click away. How lucky are we? As a camp person, you are never too far away from the people you call home.
Do you think you could sum up your camp experience in just six words? If not your entire experience, what about a summer? How about a session? I’m sorry if it sounds like a pretty impossible task. (To be honest, I completely understand.) After all how do you sum up weeks (or years) of memories in just six words?
You see I pose this question to get at a larger question … how do we tell stories at camp? How do we use these stories to build friendships? One of the absolute best things we do at camp is help kids build friendships with one another. Same thing goes for our staff too … ask any counselor why they come back to camp summer after summer, and rarely will they say the food. Sometimes these friendships burn hot and fast for a summer, and sometimes they last an entire lifetime. Regardless of their longevity, how our kids create these friendships is almost as important as the friendships themselves. Staff, counselors, specialists … friendships are what keep everybody coming back to camp summer after summer.
However these friendships don’t just magically appear out of thin air. We create them by sharing stories of ourselves. This can be really difficult for even the most seasoned camper and staff, let alone new ones. Last week I wanted to get our supervisors thinking about the importance behind sharing stories, so I asked if they could sum up one of their camp experiences in just six words. This particular project, which is based off the Six Word Memoir on Jewish Life project from Reboot and Smith Magazine, takes an inherently Jewish concept (asking questions and telling stories) and re-imagines it in a way that would challenge even the most Twitter-savvy person.
Some of them were funny, “New Facebook Profile Picture. Shabbat Shalom!” Some of them were personal “Felt Invisible. Cried. Found A Home” and all were in some way universal “Here For Summer, Home For Life.” 25 supervisors participated in this program, and I felt like I got a glimpse into a hundred different camp stories. All it took was six little words. What’s yours?