"Some Santa Claus stuff was missing from my costumed class flamingo this past year," the assistant camp director said, "and I really laid the guilt on my class. 'Guys,' I said, 'The flamingo is missing its hat and beard. Now, I'm wearing this 'Lakeview' t-shirt not only because I support the rebuilding effort there - I live there. My house was flooded nearly up to the roof, and the only things that survived were some few possessions in the attic. So whoever took those things from that flamingo, know that you have taken some things I have spent my own good, hard-earned money on for this classroom, and though they may seem trivial to you, for someone like me, it is a great deal more meaningful.' I had about eighteen students confessing to all kinds of things they'd done in the past year in my class, not just the flamingo theft!"
After the counselors and I finished laughing, I said, "Gee, what's gonna happen when future generations come down the pike and into the classrooms and that kind of guilt won't work on them?"
"Huh..." she said, her smile fading a little.
The woman really does live in Lakeview. Her house was flooded out except for the attic. I just got that nagging worry that future generations won't be as empathetic to the losses and the suffering. Kinda like the teaching I got in Jewish day school about the Shoah. Guilt and relentless teaching about numbers can get old and feel thoroughly dry after a time. And using 8-29 losses guilt on kids to get them to be upstanding student/citizens can be like pulling out a surface to air missile to take out a gnat.
"How old am I?", the C.I.T. asked the girl.
She took her time. "Sixteen," she said, looking at him with her puppy dog eyes and smiling slightly.
"How old am I?" asked the junior counselor, whose lap was a convenient seat for the girl.
"You're seventeen," she said, smiling a little wider. She knew that answer already. Too easy.
"Trick question," I barged in, moving in closer to the little group. "How old am I?"
The girl thought for a looong few seconds.
The counselor and C.I.T. both said, "Noooooo..." They didn't know exactly how old I was, but I was certainly older than they were.
"I am double her age, " I said, referring to the junior counselor. "I'm thirty-four."
"No you're not," said the girl, breaking into a big grin. Man, I love those campers.
"You're not old!" the C.I.T. said. "My mom's, like, forty!"
"My dad's fifty," the junior counselor chimed in. I love my coworkers, too.
A few days before this conversation, I got the opportunity to talk to a parent of a former camper (she'd only signed up her child for the first part of the summer, but she brought her family back for the family fun night at camp). We talked of how kids are, what they do, how frequently stuff like towels, pool shoes, and lunch bags get lost at camp, and then I pointed out my son in passing.
"You don't look old enough to have a son!" the mom exclaimed, surprised.
The kids' parents are such a kick...
Tonight, I headed to the dog park after a late stay for the five-and-six year old campers. I felt like I'd been through a wringer, though I was glad I'd overplanned things games-wise, since rain outdoors once again denied us the chance to swim. A woman I hadn't seen in a while came walking through the park with her dog.
"I haven't seen you in a long time!" she said. "You're looking better! Have you lost weight? you look more energetic, too!"
"Must be the whole working with the five-year-olds thing at camp," I said cheerfully.
Can I just hug the whole world, people?