The kids had built-in time to write their families every day, and from what Nate said, they were steadily reminded by the counselors.
“That’s one of their jobs – to keep the parents happy.”
“And up to date,” Jim added.
“No campers. No camp,” Dan simplified.
“And no millions for Linden.”
“Does he really make that much?” I asked. “Then why does he teach?”
“You can figure out the money yourself,” Steve suggested. “Just do the math. As to how much he keeps and how much he puts back into the camp – who honestly knows?”
“The place always looks great,” Paul said.
“And he teaches ‘cause he’s a good coach. Probably makes decent money, too.”
“At wrestling? It’s not a money sport,” I pointed out. “Not at the college level.”
“But there’re still scholarships,” Dan replied. “Which means there have to be good coaches – to attract the athletes.”
Since I wasn’t competitive enough for that to affect me, I hadn’t bothered to follow through. In any case, camp letter writing time was after lunch. “So the food can settle,” Nate said. But I preferred doing it at night. I didn’t normally go to sleep till one anyway, no matter what my parents thought.
First, there was my daily letter from Katie. That needed an answer. In so many ways, she had it easier. She was traveling in Europe – going to every interesting place her parents remembered, “from when they were younger,” she wrote me. So she could describe all of those places, plus give me her reactions, and say why her parents thought they were worth seeing again. Also, how they felt after being away for so many years. All I had to write about was camp.
But once I told her my schedule – which really didn’t change a lot – the main thing was the people. Of course, I couldn’t tell her everything. Some of it was dumb and some too familiar. And I sure wouldn’t tell her what happened between Andy and Nate – or what might be happening between Andy and me. But I could easily go on about Nate and his girls – that ever-changing list.
“He does have a limit,” Jim assured me.
“An age limit,” Paul added.
“No one under nine.”
“Unless she’s really cute.”
I knew they were kidding.
“I think it’s more based on experience,” Steve put in. “The girls’ve got to know at least as much as he does.”
“Or as little.”
“He doesn’t have the patience to teach”
“Can you imagine him being a counselor next year?” Dan asked.
It seemed the guys already had plans.
“He’ll be fine,” Paul insisted. “He knows plenty of ways to corrupt little kids.”
“Which won’t really hurt them.”
“Just improve their skills.”
“Maybe Linden’ll give him a bunch of trouble makers. That’d be great.”
“I just want the youngest,” Jim said. “They’re easy.”
Since I was waiting a table full of them, I wasn’t sure. But it might be too soon.
I could also tell Katie some of the stories the guys told me – and each other – from past years. Whenever they were bored, or tired of playing cards or basketball or talking about girls, they’d sit around and start, “Do you remember...?”
And it wasn’t only things they remembered. It was stories they’d been told – by other campers, or counselors. or sometimes Linden, around a campfire. From when he first worked at the camp, or when his dad started there, or even from when they both went to camp – the stories went that far back. So I had a lot to balance Katie’s travelogue.
Whether she was interested, she never said – or needed to. Because she just kept writing about Europe. I knew I wasn’t the only person she was writing to. Before she left, she said she was keeping a journal, so I knew I was getting pieces of that. Probably so were half of our friends, so maybe it didn’t matter what I wrote – as long as I kept in touch and didn’t seem to be forgetting her.
We’d already talked about what might happen in the fall – how busy we’d be, and all the new friends we’d be making, and the different classes, and how there was a reasonably good chance we’d break up.
“But still stay friends,” we’d both said. So in a way, were practicing this summer.
Of course, the other reason I didn’t mind Katie sending me the same things she sent to other people is I had to write my parents and grandparents every week – my parents more often. So I was practicing for college, too. My parents got short notes, and I could usually write the two of them together unless there was something particular I needed to write one of them. And I usually wrote Laurie, just because I liked to.
She was in Vermont, but she still liked going there, and with me gone, there was one less person in the house to juggle. Though even she admitted there wasn’t a lot to do. “There’s the lake and my friends. And then there’s the lake and my friends...”
“How ya doing?” I’d write.
“The usual – and it’s fun. But I’ve also been reading a lot more. And Jenni’s somehow gotten interested in birds – from some school bio project – and she thinks I need to come along – plus, be interested enough to help identify them. And there’re a couple of new boys.”
“Better not tell me about them. That way, I don’t have to lie to Mom and Dad.”
Still, I could use pieces of my notes – even the ones to her – in other letters, changing the comments to fit each pair of my grandparents – they were always sharing things with my parents. So it took time, and I usually did it as I was falling asleep. We’d walk the girls to the camp border, then hit the bunk.
“Don’t stay up too late,” Nate would warn as he got into bed.
Greg and Brian were often already asleep.
“You don’t want to mess up breakfast – or be late.”
“What if I did?” I’d joke. “What if I were?”
“We wouldn’t let that happen – you know that. You’d get the old ice water.”
A camp favorite.
“You’d wreck a good mattress,” I’d pointed out, when I first heard of it.
“It dries in an hour,” Dan insisted. “In the sun.”
“We just drag them outside,” Paul added.
“Besides, they’re wrapped in plastic.”
“Vinyl,” Greg corrected.
“You’d think anyone could miss that noise?” Steve asked.
“They’re quieter under the mattress pads,” Jim put in.
“Before Linden got pads for everyone, my parents used to pack one for me.”
“Which we made fun of.”
“Poor little Stevie.”
“I always slept better.”
“It hardly mattered – we were all so worn out. They always kept us so busy when we were kids. I never had trouble falling asleep.”
“I don’t know... on ghost story nights... Remember the time when...”
And they were off. So there were lots of things I could tell Katie. And even if I did stay up too late and barely made it to breakfast, I could always go back to bed for an hour while the kids scuba dived, or played hockey, or worked out. There was even yoga, but mostly for the girls. The boys preferred Tai Chi. I could doze for an hour, then hit the mostly empty waterfront before general swim, then shower, clean up, and be ready to serve lunch.
It’s a great job,” I wrote Katie. “Almost a prize for all those years of studying.”
That time, she answered me directly. “You didn’t study half as hard as I did.”
I wanted to say, “That’s ‘cause I planned better.” I’d worked out just how hard I’d needed to study to get the grades to get into the kinds of colleges we both wanted. And we both got into the same good schools. But telling her that would be rude.