Have you ever had a job that totally and completely changed your life?
No, I’m not talking about pursuing your passion, or changing the world, or even making a bunch of money.
I mean a minimum-wage job, without which, you wouldn’t be the person you are today?
I have. I was a day camp counselor at my local park district every summer for seven years.
This was the perfect job for me for a couple reasons:
- I wanted to be a teacher, and I got to work with kids.
- It was a full-time gig with steady money throughout the summer.
- It was fun! I got to play at the park, color, and dance on a daily basis.
- I met some of my very best friends through this job. (Not to mention I also met my husband through this job.)
My fondest summer memories are thanks to the CRPD.
We played all the usual games at day camp: freeze dance, tag, (all varieties including, but not limited to regular tag, freeze tag, TV tag, etc.) knockout, dodgeball (until it was inveitably banned for the summer because someone got hurt), duck-duck-goose, Army-Navy– you get the idea.
There were others, too, that came from the armpits of the internet. Once such game was Cinderella’s Glass Slipper.
You can read the rules here. (Couldn’t find the rules.) Here’s the basic gist of the game:
- There are two teams, and one person from each team is blindfolded.
- The referee/ counselor hides someone’s shoe.
- Team A gives their blindfolded team member directions to find the hidden shoe.
- Team B gives directions to their blindfolded person to try and tag Team A’s person before Team A gets the shoe.
It was so much fun. Naturally, as sort-of adults, we wanted to play too.
One summer the game was banned, though, because one of the campers ran into the metal doorway. Oops. (She was fine.)
We always made whatever crafts the kids were doing, and sometimes we had them do additional crafts we came up with. One summer we made puppets out of brown paper bags (a classic). Another summer we were really into having the girls draw pictures and tell us a story about it.
There was one craft that involved pipe cleaners– I don’t remember what it was– and we decided to make antennae for ourselves (the counselors, not the girls… actually the girls may have been involved– maybe the craft had to do with bugs? IDK.)
Anyways, we wore our antennae for the rest of the day, like it was totally normal. After work, Katy and I usually rode our bikes home together, but I was working the after care program that day, so I rode home later, on my own.
As I peddled along, a car of teenagers drove past, giving me odd looks. I waved in response and kept going my merry way.
When I got home, I realized why those teenagers were looking at me oddly: I was still wearing my antennae. (Sadly, I have no photographic evidence of the antennae.)
Pool days were obviously the best days of the week. When we first started working there, we went to the pool twice a week. It was amazing. (By the end of our day camp careers, though, we only went once every other week to a small water park further away. Not as fun.)
Mary and I would take baby pool duty, lather ourselves in baby oil (horrible, I know), and then we’d bask in the sun and chat all day– oh, and obviously, we’d watch our kids splash around in the kiddie pool.
Yes, we basically got paid to sun bathe and gossip.
Field Trips/ Singing on the Bus
We went on field trips once a week– Imax movies, arcades, water parks, baseball games, and of course, the zoo.
The coveted seats on the bus to said field trips were the seats up front, across from the air conditioner. (Because we were with the young kids, we always got to ride on the park district’s “air conditioned” bus.)
More often than not, we’d break out into song, usually singing 90’s pop hits from artists such as the Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, TLC, and Nsync. It was oodles of fun, plus we were educating our girls about classic music.
One time, though, one of our fellow counselors got stuck sitting in the back of the bus. On our next field trip she told us this:
“When I sit up here and sing with you guys, it’s my favorite thing in the world. But one time I sat in the back of the bus, and I wanted to punch you guys. And then I realized, I am one of those people.”
We kept being those people. I think a lot of people disliked us. Or wanted to be our friends. Hard to say.
Have I ever mentioned my girlfriends and how amazing they are? Oh, I have? That’s weird. Well, out of our core group of the seven of us, five of us worked at the park district together. In fact, Katy and I WENT to day camp together when we were little, and we rekindled our friendship there in college.
I made sure to ask my girlfriends what their favorite memories/ parts of day camp were; here’s what they had to say.
When the girl who was ten put ice cream in her lunch box for later… and was shocked when it melted all over.
The time Steve let the girls paint his nails while we made up their talent show dance.
[Kid] almost shitting her pants on the bus. [Kid 2] puking on the way in to McDonald’s.
When [another counselor] told [Kid], ‘I don’t care,’ in a robot voice because that’s what she souned like.
How Becca always had any kids that would need special attention, such as [Kid] with her allergic-to-everything self. (Literally, she was allergic to EVERYTHING. She couldn’t been in the room if an egg was cracked.)
Watching Hocus Pocus every summer, like it was a normal tradition to have.
When there was an outbreak of lice on the day we called off… My palms are sweating from thinking about that.
Calling and leaving voicemails saying you were “sick” at like 2 am.
The time Becca was going to the bathroom in the classroom and was like, ‘I’m pooping!’ and I told her Steve and Brad were with me, and she freaked out, but they weren’t actually there.
The list goes on and on, but I won’t bore you with our inside jokes and memories.
But everyone said something about our friendships, too:
My favorite thing, obvi and seriously, is becoming friends with all of you ladies!! (Bex twice, as kids and then again as adults.)
Ugh, this is so hard, but for sure girlfriends!!!!!!
Duh, my lady friends!!
You guys are for sure #1!
I hope the next generation of counselors realizes how lucky they are.