The following won an Honorable Mention at the recent Wisconsin Writers Association Jade Ring Contest for Humor. I’m not sure it deserved that high of notoriety, but it was nice to be honored. I read it before a small group of fellow writers and the moderator who also judged the contest said something about this being fiction. To which I replied, “Heck No! This wasn’t fiction. I dreamed everyone of these dreams, plus some.” He shook his head. Clearly he didn’t grasp the life of a YMCA camp director. Or at least this one.
Camp Pinewood Staff, please note that I changed the names of you people. No sense you being embarrassed, too.
Feel free to comment and diagnose me at the end, and please check out my other posts and web site pages…
Dear former staff,
This spring, I’m experiencing weekly dreams about my years directing YMCA camps.
The first one involved my boss yelling, “Where the hell is your April enrollment report? It’s late. Get your ass in gear!”
Panic overwhelmed me as I hung up. I realized I forgot to send the camp brochure out. In fact, I hadn’t written it, nor checked the mail box for registrations.
The second dream occurred at the Chicago 111th Street YMCA. I stood in front of a sea of humanity, a white Moses, trying to bring order to the thousands of kids waiting to load the buses for camp. All their mothers were thrusting loose spending money and medical forms at me. One told me her little girl couldn’t come, but the cousin could. The cousin was 14, a boy larger than me.
Magically, Officer Harkness appeared at my side, on a police horse. (I know. I know Charley! Your daddy was a canine officer, but this is MY dream.) Instead of helping me wave some magic baton to part the Red Sea, he barked, “Where’s your bus staff?” Then he disappeared, leaving me gasping as I realized I forgot to schedule bus staff to supervise the 4 -hour ride to camp.
Next week, a 3 a.m. encounter involved the end of Memorial Day Family Camp and Sandi, the Program Director, who was loading her car. I was upset she was leaving. (Imagine me ever getting upset!) Finally, she yelled, “Mr. Bill, I only came to help with Family Camp. I have a full-time job now and can’t work during summers anymore. What’s wrong with you?”
Three other staff all nodded along. One asked, “Mr. Bill, when do the rest of the staff arrive for summer camp?” After seeing my panicked expression, she said, “Well, if you think the 3 of us can run this camp with 150 kids by ourselves, you’re nuts. We’re out of here, too!” I frantically tried to find the number for the newspaper help wanted section.
Last night, things got even worse! A family visiting day was going on. Pure chaos, as usual. I was hustling up the trail and noticed candy wrappers in front of a cabin, the raggedy screen door hung wide open, and blocking the entrance was a huge pile of damp, musty towels, half of them probably carrying ringworm. I yelled, “Get this place straightened up. It’s a disgrace!”
The counselor came to the door and started snickering. Right at me, right in my face. Next, he was laughing! So were the kids. No respect. All at once, someone ran up and wrapped a beach towel around me as some little kid hollered, “Why is Mr. Bill naked?”
After each dream, as my groggy mind swims slowly toward the surface of rationality, I anticipate waking to the calming sight of pine trees, Echo Lake rippling outside my screen windows, feeling the breezes, hearing camper flip-flops slapping their way to Polar Bear swim accompanied by their counselors’ gentle voices (Hey! I can still dream), and smelling Rachel’s magnificent cooking. Instead, I break surface to find myself in bed with a snoring, white-haired man and the cold splash of recognition that it’s been 24 years since I was a YMCA camp director.
Is this why the YMCA retirement programs are so munificent? Did the big-wigs know we can never escape our worries, and that’s why they made the benefits so rewarding? I spent only (Only!) 23 years with the Y, what about all those employees who put in 40 or more? Do they have nightmares every week, maybe several times a week? All year long, instead of just in the spring, like me? Do they get sleeping pills each month with their retirement check? How many more years did I need to put in before they would have furnished me sleeping pills? One-half of a Benadryl isn’t cutting it, nor are two Moscow Mules.
This morning, with our coffee klatch, I lamented my lack of sleep and shared my dream of being naked. They didn’t laugh at that part, maybe because they envisioned me in my present condition. Fat.
“So,” the retired banker, looking tan, fit and 10 years younger, inquired. “If you could, would you change anything about your life?”
“Heck, no! But I am switching to double martinis at night.”
Just letting you know I haven’t forgotten camp.
P.S. Extra dry, a twist, and two olives, please.