We began most mornings this week with a light drizzle and cloud covers that moved in and out of our little part of the coast. For this summer days like this have been unusual–most days have been warm and dry. But, weeks like this most years are the norm. I remind myself that normal is in a constant state of flux, that it is really more an idea we construct when looking in the rear view mirror when life starts to change on us. I may be calling this, “normal,” someday when my life takes some kind of abrupt turn.
I went to the Sand Dollar Tuesday night for dinner with Allyson, my brother-in-law Andrew, and his girlfriend Beth. They had been staying with us for about a week and this was their last night on the coast. I wanted to spend more time with them, but this happened to be one of the busiest weeks of my summer yet, a string of weeks where I hadn’t been able to take a day off, only piece together a few hours here and there for a meal. I’ve managed to craft schedules and staff work together well enough that we all get time off, but these past two weeks, we’ve been just stretched a little too thin. Most everyone still got time off, but to do that, I couldn’t swing it for myself. This is also the time Andrew managed to find the most reasonable plane tickets to fly out.
Still, I got to hang out with Andrew and Beth most evenings after camp, and I got to eat at the Sand Dollar, this nice little restaurant in Rockaway where you can share a patio meal and watch the sunset over the Pacific. It’s moments like these I realize how wonderful this chapter in my life is. I was exhausted in that moment, but there was this enjoyable peacefulness sitting around the table with family, enjoying good food, listening to the waves crash, talking about our time together. Andrew and Beth enjoyed our new home and can’t wait to come back. I look forward to times when I can spend an entire day with them, showing them even more sites, a little more awake. In the mean time, we passed tasty food around, watching the sky change colors from blue to red to orange to purple.
During the week, we hosted the last round of summer camp that we were in charge of. There is so much I want to introduce, so much I’m trying to learn, so much I want to meld together. It’s taxing when you only get three shots at it each summer. When you’re try to create or mold something, there are many questions you ask. You ask yourself to remember what you knew before. You ask yourself to imagine something new and figure out how to construct it. You ask yourself if it can work. You ask yourself if you’re strong enough. These questions can overwhelm. In the end, there is some guess work even from the wisest of us. In every moment we live, there is something new and uncharted, there is also something familiar, something more normal. We do our best to look behind and remember, while looking forward and imagining something new.
I found a familiar role this week with a camper who had a lot of difficulty fitting into a group and a schedule. He refused to do a lot of activities, opting to play on his own, even when he was asked not to. He was quick to anger when he didn’t get what he wanted and quick to take it out on his cabin mates in very disruptive ways. I’ve dealt with many campers like this, some successfully, some not so successfully. I’ve seen that if you have a kid who seems a little to angry over losing at gaga or having to go to theme time, he/she is probably actually angry over something else. You have to go in realizing that the problem you are dealing with isn’t really the problem and there isn’t really something personal here–this kid hardly knows you. You represent something to him/her.
I spent a lot of time with this kid this week, working to get him back with his group or trying to curb behavior that was detrimental to the rest of his cabin. There were times I was very loving and times I was very stern. There was times this week when this kid was excited to see me, holding up his hand for a high-five, asking me to sit with him at meals. There were other times when he wouldn’t make eye contact with me, would only give me token one word answers to his questions. I don’t know how he feels about me at this point, and I’m sure it’s kind of convoluted. I hope there are more opportunities down the road for us to grow, more chances for him to find other ways to deal with whatever is troubling him, here at camp. Last year he was sent home early. This year he stayed the whole week. I hope this means he’s growing. I hope we are helping.
I remember those feelings in so many other scenarios. I remember when I was young at this, the ways that I’ve changed my tactics. I remember times I thought I had struck out only to hear from campers down the road. And, I remember some who I’ve still never heard from. I wonder where they are right now, what they are doing, if they remember me at all.
It rained on us as we said goodbye to our last group of summer campers, hugging them, asking if they are coming back next year. That feels so much like something I know. I long for those moments to continue to grow, for the goodbyes to be harder, to mean something deeper. The rain eased, then returned, throughout the day as we welcomed in a group of 100 grandparents and grandchildren. The next day, though, it was sunny and warm, back to what has been, at least for this summer, our normal. I helped the resource staff lead wave jumping with a group of kids from 5 years old to teenagers to grandparents. The waves were strong and beautiful, but broke in just the right way to push us around but not take us down all the way. Standing out in the surf as those powerful waves came in, I heard Savanah say, “It’s a great day to be alive!” In that moment, there was no need to analyze the past or try to predict the future. It was all right there. I thought to myself, “It sure is, Savanah,” hoping for that to be the normal at least for the next little bit.