I sat on a stump by the sparking birch-bark fire, strumming a guitar to the tune of"The Circle Game." I sang the lyrics so ingrained in my mind afterhearing them for six years: "The seasons, they go 'round and 'round, and thepainted ponies go up and down. We're captive in the carousel of time."Another summer at Camp Kenwood had ended, and I was playing guitar during theannual closing campfire.
Looking at the glowing faces of the children whowatched me sing, the memories of my years as a camper flooded my mind. Iremembered my first bus ride to camp, a strange new place with strange newpeople, and how I had stared, teary-eyed out the tinted bus window and wondered,What did I get myself into? But even with a horrible counselor, tears ofhomesickness every night, and impetigo (a skin infection caused by unfoundedfears of showering), I managed to survive that first summer.
Four summerslater, with a 50-pound backpack laden with food, cooking utensils, a Bunsenburner and tent, I learned to be responsible for others by leading a group upMount Washington. A year later I faced an even bigger challenge: I was diagnosedwith ulcerative colitis a week before camp was to start. With the support of myparents, the decision to return to camp was easy, and that summer I learned tomanage my illness. That was my fifth and final summer as a camper.
Thefollowing year I returned to Camp Kenwood as a counselor and my life there camefull circle. I helped a group of eight-year-olds survive their first summer. Icomforted them at bedtime while they silently cried tears of homesickness intotheir pillows. I walked them to the infirmary at midnight after they had thrownup all over the bunk. Some mornings, I secretly took their wet sheets to thelaundry so the other kids wouldn't laugh at them.
During that summer, Ialso tried to pass on my love of camp to my campers, and through them Iexperienced the joys of camp all over again. I vividly relived all the earlymornings as a camper, waking up to find the ball fields laced in morning dew, thelake masked in mist, and the air scented with spruce. I reminisced as theyenjoyed capture-the-flag in the hollow, pig's eye on rainy days, snipe hunt,rackit smackit, hollowpalooza, and Jell-O wrestling: all the events that had mademe love camp. Watching my campers fall in love with camp was as rewarding asenjoying it myself.
If just one of my campers returned year after yearuntil he became a counselor, I'd be happy. Then together we'd look out across anew group of glowing faces and together we'd sing "The Circle Game" atthe closing campfire. "We can't return, we can only look back from where wecame. And go 'round and 'round and 'round in the circle game."
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.