Day Number… Oh never mind, I have lost count.

I wake up, and push the New Zealand, see-through, flag to the side as all the girls of Blue Heaven greet me, “good morning Becca!” They all scream at me in excitement. Another counselor from Comet invites herself into our cabin, “why do you look like a mummy?” she asks me, laughing, and I drag my heavy legs to the bathroom. When did waking up become such a challenge?

“She doesn’t do mornings…” one of my campers explains, and lets out a laugh it’s day number two with them, and they already know me very well. Campers wait in line to use the sinks, and the toilets to prepare for their second day of camp. It’s another day with new activities.

“What are you teaching today?” One of them asks me with a wide smile on their face, and enthusiasm in their eyes.

“I am actually officer of the day,” I say, in a monotone voice. I realize that I sound mean, and I try to add a smile. It’s morning, and I am a camp counselor, I have to be pleasant.

“What’s that?” She asks, her eyes wide.

“That means I get to walk around and take pictures of you guys in your activities, and then write an article about everything that happens at camp.”

“Oh that’s cool! What are you going to write about?”

I wrinkle my eyebrows; I have already done this twice… what is a new way that I can spice it up? “I think I’m going to write it in story form.” She nods, and we continue to prepare for the hot day of camp ahead of us.

As I watch the girls do their chores, answer questions, some dance around the cabin to “Shut Up and Dance,” and really any other song that comes on. This is another typical morning in Blue Heaven, and many other cabins. Others listen as I tell stories, and jokes about nursery rhymes that we grow up listening to, and they end up in a fit of laughter. I love making them laugh. They know that I am awake when I start making jokes.

As we walk to breakfast, the rocks are not scared to make themselves comfortable in all of our chacos, and stab us in the feet over, and over, and over again. We stop many times to kick the rocks out, and as I am sitting at the breakfast table next to one of the girls, Mary Elizabeth G. (M.E.), I look at her with a grin. All of the girls know that it brings me so much joy to make it all the way through the announcements song, so they wait to watch my face when we get interrupted in the middle of it by a “be quiet!”

“What are the odds that we will make it through the announcement’s song today?” I ask her. What are the odds is a fun game that all the girls love to play, especially with their counselors, most of the time I refuse to play. They ask me why, and I explain that first session the odds were from 1-100 on whether or not I would drink from the “killed” pitcher. It contained some sort of tomato soup, milk, back-washed water and a couple other mysterious liquids. If we said the same number, then I had to drink it, if the numbers we chose added up to 100, she would have to drink it.

My thought process was this, “I can’t chose 50 because that’s too obvious and easily added up to 100, besides if she said 50, we would both have to drink from it. So I’ll choose forty. Forty is a solid number.” But as I was reading her lips, she said four, and I stopped at the “four” part of forty, and quickly realized what that meant.

“No!” I declared, but Rachel D. insisted, and so had the rest of the Sunny Siders who had watched it happen. So after a few failed attempts, to plug my nose and just take a sip, they poured me a glass of water for the moment after I took a sip.  That is why I never play the famous “what are the odds,” and all of my girls know that.

But I am willing to gamble whether or not we will make it through the announcement’s song today. Mary Elizabeth G.  (M.E.) looks at me and says, “one through ten.” I nod and on a count down of three, two, one, we both yell “eight!”

“Yes!” I yell, and shoot my hands into the air. Although after a couple of songs, that woke us up, made us jump on the benches in excitement, and get a few good laughs, we sit down for the announcements song.  Mary Elizabeth G. and I look at each other, this is the moment of truth, whether or not we make it through the song. I can feel it, we will!

“Beeeee Quiet!”

“No!” I yell and bow my head in defeat, as the song was not over.

“Hey!” The rest of Tucker Inn yells, and I look at the grin on everyone’s face at my disappointment.

“Best two out of three,” Mary Elizabeth G. says, and we shake on it. At the very end of the announcements the speaker yells, “Blue Heaven is sweeping, staff put your benches up, and ladies go to chapel!” So the girls grab the brooms, and we turn up the tunes. Aubrey W. grabs my hand half way through as we skip around the dining hall dancing, and spinning around as the sweeping is coming to an end. Eventually we walk up to chapel to hear a story from Davie B.

We find some seats in the back, and listen to her story about her first year as a counselor, and how she got lost on the way up to the shelter. The trip was terrible for the girls, and they hated that they were lost, and tired and getting sprayed in the eyes with bug spray. Eventually they made their way to the shelter, and right as the last girl made it to cover, it started raining.

“It could have been a hundred times worse, and it would have been an even more miserable time had we been soaked, but God provided the shelter. He will protect you and keep you safe.” She says from the front, and I can’t help but think that it is a good reminder to my girls and I that as we are in our last two weeks of camp, when we go back to school and all go our separate ways, that God will still protect us, love us and care for us.

As the girls stand up to leave chapel, there is an announcement. “It is tribal volleyball tonight! So go to your tribe meetings for tryouts!”

“Becca, do we have to go?” The girls of Blue Heaven ask me, and I say yes, nodding my head. They groan and walk away, and all the campers leave to go try out for the opportunity to defend their tribe later tonight.

After tryouts the girls head off to their activities, and I find a nice working camera to start taking pictures of them, and their activities. From class to class, all around camp, there are safety talks, and first timers in the water. The gymnastics crew goes over basics, and when I make my way in there, I introduce myself, “I’m Becca, I was born and raised in Ohio. I go to school in Michigan though, at Eastern Michigan University! I am a proud Choctaw, and I am also a Blue Heaven counselor.” I wave to my girls, “this is my first year at camp, but I have been doing gymnastics for fourteen years… ish, and I have been coaching for six years.” They all wave at me, and I take a couple pictures of them before I wave goodbye and head to other parts of camp.

Down by Lake Doris, four-week kayakers are learning rolls, and help each other out when they can’t get back over while doing rolls. They pose for pictures, and the morning sun rises and slowly gets hotter and hotter.

I make my way to puppy camp, a place that I find really relaxing to be. As I open up the gate, the girls are playing game to pick their partners and which puppy they will be with while at camp. Dillon, one of the dogs, pulls on my shirt that is hanging pretty low. I push him off of me, but he’s a dog, so he see’s it as a game and keeps trying by tugging on my shirt. The girls feed them snacks, while giving them commands to sit, and lay down. “You know, at my school during exams, they will bring in puppies for us to play with at the science complex.” I tell one of the campers.

“Why?” she asks.

“It’s supposed to help reduce stress.” I say, and I smile, and I find it to be true. I went last semester when I was extremely stressed, and the puppies helped a lot. So I completely understand why everyone loves puppy camp!

Down in cooking (and in the air conditioning) I find that they are making cookies, and I even get the chance to taste one. I close my eyes, and take in the sweet taste of the amazing cookies that the campers had made in the first period. They are becoming experts!

At one o’clock, the lunch bell chimes, and we all pile into the dining hall for Taco’s in a bag. A big time favorite around Merri-Mac, by the time I reach my table in the back corner, all the bags of Frito’s are already divided among the girls, and someone is ready to go get them refilled.

We sing, and we pray, and I am off to go get them some meat. We talk about random things, as we do everyday, and we find ourselves always laughing uncontrollably. Typically at something embarrassing that they just caught me doing. That is when an announcement is made, “tonight for evening activity, the theme is super heroes!”

One of my campers, Claire H. looks at me, “Becca, can I use your superman costume!?” She yells, and I nod in excitement. I had just told them yesterday about this costume and that I wanted to be able to wear it, but they knew that I would be missing evening activity tonight so it was up for grabs. The announcements song comes, and I look at Mary Elizabeth G. and point, “this is it!” I yell.

“Beeeeee Quiet!” Someone announces and once again I drop my head in defeat.

“Hey!” Tucker Inn screams back.

“Dinner!” I say, pointing to everyone. “I can feel it, dinner we will get through the announcements song at dinner.” After lunch, we sweep, and once again I am dancing with the girls, finding myself really enjoying my time with them. They sing, It’s a hard knock life, as if we are torturing them by making them sweep, sing and dance at the same time. Don’t let them fool you, they actually enjoy sweeping.

Together, we make our climb up senior hill. We get to the top and we are all out of breath, “all summer… and this hill doesn’t get better.” I say between breaths.

The girls laugh, “you would think that it would!” They head to the cabin, and we tell them to climb in their beds because it is rest hour.

“But it doesn’t. It actually gets worse.” It’s the truth, but it’s good exercise. Yesterday I had gone to trading post with them, and we sat in the cabin afterwards and played a game that had us answer questions about camp, and we told stories about experiences at home, or our embarrassing moments.

I find guitar and archery, learning new skills, and going over safety rules. Fencing has some fun, learning the basics, and once again the kitchen is up and running.

By the time dinner rolls around, the girls are once again hungry, everyone is dressed in their super hero outfits, and I find that Claire H. has found my superman dress and is wearing it as a cape. I’m glad to see that it’s getting some use. Once again the announcements song is in full swing, and this time we are getting further than we had all day. I raise my eyebrows looking at Mary Elizabeth G.

“Look!” I yell, pointing at her from across the table, “over the ridge, it’s Becky’s giraffe! Blub blub blub! Spill mop girl, come. Water is power. Squirrel whirl, it’s gonna be wild. How wild? So wild!?” We yell and slam on the table. “Lick a friend, absolutely I do! Bang a rang, sip on that, boom roasted! We love ya’ll, we love ya’ll. Leave your sassy boots at the door, getcha some!”

“Beeeee Quiet!”

“No!” I yell. Mary Elizabeth G. smiles, “tomorrow is the day!” I say and she shakes her head at me, laughing.

The girls head off to Volleyball and I write this story.

Many days have similar layouts, the girl’s travel to different activities, learn different things, and go over safety talks. Adam B. always tells us, as staff, that 4,000 things have to go right in order to have a normal day of camp, and it is incredibly true. However, everyday, even though I have lost count of the number of days that we have been at camp, everyday as been a “normal,” day so far. We always have really great days, with different conversations, and I get the pleasure of doing my girls hair in the mornings, and helping them overcome homesickness. I get to tell them about my own embarrassing moments, which… one typically happens once a week so there is plenty of material to keep them laughing. They laugh, and they tell me their stories as well. They tell me about their families, many of which I sadly will never get to meet. They tell me when they overcome a fear, or get a new skill, and some of the girls I get to have in my gymnastics class, so I get the pleasure of helping them do those things as well.

Tonight, I will continue to read to my girls once lights are out. We are finishing up the book of Matthew, and the plot is thickening! The girls really enjoy it, and I love reading to them. As I will turn out my flashlight once I finish whatever chapter I end on, I will once again thank God for the experiences that I get with these girls.

And as far as the parents back home reading this… your girl may not have been mentioned, but I can guarantee, similar things are happening on a daily basis. Your girls are laughing; your girls are learning, and growing. They have relaxing classes, and they are helping each other out. They are probably making bets with their counselors as well, maybe not something as silly as making it through the announcements song, but things like… “if you get a ten on cabin inspection, you can push me in the lake!”

Jokes are being told, fun is being had, and above all, we are all learning and growing. That is the best part about camp, so thank you for giving us your girls for a couple of weeks so we can love them too, and grow with them and learn with them.

God bless you and keep you!

-Becca Garber