The morning started out crazy with the high schooler missing his bus, which was mostly my fault. I advised him to leave a little too late and the bus isn’t actually stopping at his stop; it’s stopping right next to the car of a kid who rode the bus last year. It’s a really nice day, so I’m not sure why the kid waits in the car. I’m also not sure why a high schooler’s mom takes them to the bus stop in a car. So I had to drop off the high schooler at school. Thankfully the system is set up reasonably well that you don’t get caught in a crazy car line with a ton of crazy drivers. In fact, it seems like there are more staff members outside the school monitoring things than there are inside the school.
Today’s schedule is light for me. The contractor will have a short day with the bathroom remodeling, lunch with my wife, some cleaning up after this crazy first week of school, and making my soccer rosters for tomorrow’s games. I enjoy that process. My captains will be the first subs, not starting. I think that will surprise them quite a bit. But I want to give them the opportunity to step back and see what’s going on first, then make adjustments when I sub them in once they’re ready. All part of my development plan for them.
With my slightly older team, I have no idea what I am going to do for overall strategy. Practice was a little erratic last night. We have everything from kids who have played for 7 years to a player who is just starting out. We had a fun practice last night, but I found last season that I couldn’t really figure out where to take practice until after the first game. It felt the same with this team. It’s so hard to know how well they will play until you see them in a game. They don’t seem to take practice very seriously at this age. The other coach is awesome though, and I think we will have a lot of fun.
Last up for today will be a fire in the fire pit to celebrate the first week back at school. Temperatures have started falling in the evening and I cannot wait to sit outside with a fire tonight. It’s so calming to me. I like to make fires kind of big because then they will last a big longer. I never want the fire to end when I’m sitting there with it. We do smores once the fire is established and hot. And then we relax for hours. The kids generally don’t make it through the whole fire, but that’s ok. It’s slightly less relaxing with them anyway, because I can’t assume they will behave 100% perfectly around a big, hot fire.
The fire always takes me back to another time and place, when my life was so much simpler. Sometimes it takes me back to a couple of complicated places, but usually it’s just that one simple place. Summer camp. I went for 4 years I think. Maybe 5. I also went once for just 3 nights instead of the 6 for big kids. The first year was like a warmup to spending all week alone at camp. I liked it so I kept going back.
We slept in bunk beds, which I loved. I always chose a top bunk. It felt like you were hiding in a nest in a tree. Some of the other kids were scared of the top bunks, but I never was. I always wanted a bunk bed but never had one, so summer camp was special like that. I think we had 7-9 kids per cabin and one counselor in each cabin. The counselors were doing counselor things once they put us to bed, so we were alone in there for a bit. I remember one year I let them “hypnotize” me and I started saying scary stuff on purpose. It was pretty funny. They all thought it was real when I “woke up” and pretended not to remember anything I said.
I remember each cabin had a day where you had to work at the dining hall during meals. You would set your table and bring the food to the table for everyone who sat there. Then they ate and left and you had to clean the table. Then you were done. Or maybe it was a rotation where you ended up doing three meals’ worth of work, but not all on the same day? I can’t remember those details now, but it was fun.
We swam several times a day in the lake. I really liked the dock there. There was a high dive that I got brave enough to conquer my third year there, although I did NOT enjoy touching seaweed with my foot the first time I jumped into the water from the high dive. Too many intrusive thoughts about getting caught in the seaweed and drowning. I think all that swimming was my favorite part when I was a kid.
But every night, we had a huge campfire and we sang campfire songs. I feel like most were religious songs because the camp was associated with the United Methodist Church. I liked most of the songs and I really loved the campfire. I remember sitting on the log benches, just staring into the fire and wondering what life would be like. I remember trying to plan my future and having no real idea what I would be doing, who I would know, and what was going to happen. But I always felt like the fire had the answers. Now when I look at the fire, I can see that little kid who thought they were big because they could sleep away from home for a week. I can see someone who was scared of the future but also tentatively excited. I see the pain that little kid was enduring at the time and what was going to come in their future. I see a giant force waking up in that kid, pushing them to a bigger and better place and forcing them to never give up. I see that tiny flicker of light that would propel that small, skinny kid into success, even through depression, undiagnosed ADHD, and confusion over what was happening on the inside.
I see a child who was abused badly in someone else’s home by people who were not even family members. I see a child who already knew too much about life but had no idea how much innocence they had been robbed of by people who didn’t care. I see a child who just wanted to be loved but was traumatized to be too independent. And I see a child who would learn more and more how dangerous it was to trust anyone around you, especially adults. I wish that child could have understood that none of that was their fault. That they were doing the very best they could do. I feel grateful that the child could have that week at camp where the anxiety slowed down and the pain in their stomach went away for a few days, except when they had to carry all that food on a plastic tray back to their table.
I want to hug that kid so hard and hold them close. I feel myself wanting to cry as I think about my life back then. I don’t ever let myself go that deep into these memories when I’m staring at the fire, because I don’t want to turn fire time into sad time. But I do like to remember that kid, the one that survived so much and fought so hard to stay alive, even when it seemed almost impossible. The kid is fierce. That kid made it out alive and now gets to live and be happy in a loving, trustworthy home where hugs and support are never ending. That kid made it…finally.