What a cool, cool summer this has become. I responded to a job listed on Craigslist that was from the local JCC camps. They wanted a music specialist, who could play guitar, for their summer camp. The very same camp my daughter attends. I responded, and got the job.
It's been so great going to work with a guitar on my back every morning. At first I was scared about what to play for the kids. After all, I only had about 10 or 11 songs in my back pocket, and one of them was "I've Been Working On the Railroad." I just didn't know if that would connect with kids at all. I'd played for Stella's school a couple of times, but only for 20 minutes a shot, and then I got to leave. This would be three 45 minute sessions a day, and I didn't want to play all the same songs every day.
But I found ways to stretch the material out. I found so many songs that feature easy, fun choruses. I also learned that it's crucial that the songs have things for the kids to do as well, so they're not just sitting there. Songs I loved, like "Rock Island Line" ended up being duds because there was just nothing for the kids to do. Songs I was blase about, such as "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain" ended up being pretty good because there were hand movements for the kids. And songs I never thought I would play, such as "Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes" became huge hits, because it gave kids something to do, could be played fast or slow, and could take as much time as necessary.
The kids are great. As a dad I've come to appreciate other people's kids so much more. And some of these kids are the same ones who have been in Stella's classes for the past several years. I'm really getting to see them grow up. I've just come to care about and love so many of them. I will really miss them when camp's over in two days.
As the same time I am outside every morning, in the sun. True I am also right by the highway, which I don't love, but overall I can't complain. My fellow specialists, in sports, science, and art, are wonderful to talk to, and I've enjoyed getting to know the other counselors. Most of whom are in their late teens to early 20s, which is a bit strange.
In the afternoons I've come home focused, ready to write, and make the most of my time here on Earth. Which maybe sounds dramatic, but something about this job, it's helped me regain the eye of the tiger when it comes to writing. Which is great.
The only sad part is that school starts so early here, August 20, and camp is done this Friday. I've been here before, it's always surprisingly sad when camp ends, I know that. But I'll still miss this summer. It's been the best one I've had in years.
The last time I worked in a camp I was 19 years old, and was a counselor at a NJYMHA sleepaway camp. I knew so little about kids, and did maybe half a good job. But I'll never forget as all the counselors and staff boarded the last buses and drove away. I was left at the camp, pretty much all alone, because I had a car. I cried for maybe 10 minutes straight, already missing everyone, and then had to go clean up my bunk, because the kids had all left and it was a mess. After that I loaded my heavy, black trunk into my Mitsubishi Mirage, and it tore the plastic fabric as I tried to stuff it into the back.
I looked around, and all was empty, like summer had almost never happened. But it had happened, I had the heartache to prove it. Then I closed the hatchback, somehow, put the car in gear, drove down the hill one last time, and went to our country house, where I met my mom for an early dinner. I never went back, but a part of me never left either.