July 10, 2010

The most influential aspect of my life has been my time spent at Franklin Country Day Camp, a summer camp in Franklin, Massachusetts that I have attended every summer since I was 4. It’s a six-week-long day camp, from 8:30am to 4:30pm every Monday through Friday. That’s 40 hours a week, at a summer camp payroll, which is nearly half of minimum wage. You’d think I’d have better ways to spend my summers. I can guarantee you, there is no better way.

From 4 to 13 I was a camper; swimming, building fires, canoeing, singing songs, etc. All the standard camp stuff. From 13 to 19 (now) I’ve been a counselor, watching over the campers whom I once walked among. I’ve been at this camp longer than I’ve known any of my friends, and it’s not surprising that a lot of my best memories took place here.

Describing this camp and how it works is simple. Making people understand what’s so great about it is another thing entirely, in fact I find it to be nearly impossible. So for the sake of not wasting my readers’ time, I’ll try my best to discuss what makes FCDC special in a few paragraphs:

We’ve got all the standard summer camp stuff: olympic-sized pool, archery course, sports and games field, kayaks and canoes, etc. But some elements of the camp are less common. The campers take ceramics lessons, make projects in both a wood-shop and an arts & crafts area, climb obstacle courses in the woods, and perform theater-arts in a miniature theatre. There’s also a giant tent which the whole camp gathers under once a day for “sing.”

At sing, counselors and campers go up in front of the other 300 members of the camp and sing songs, perform skits, play instruments, tell jokes, and occasionally get other counselors in trouble for rule-breaking, playfully punishing them by making them sing and dance for the camp. FCDC is a place where you can make a fool of yourself and enjoy it, and sing is the time of day where it happens all at once and in front of everybody. Growing up at this camp, especially going to sing every day, is to what I entirely attribute my outgoingness and ability to shrug off shyness and nervousness. It’s the reason I can give speeches and perform on stage, and the reason I can recover quickly from embarrassing situations.

What’s probably the most unique activity at my camp is “video” (I know, this camp’s got some creative names) where my friend and I are the head counselors. When a group of kids have “video” listed on their rotating schedule, they come to me. My co-head and I write scripts for short skits, and when the kids arrive we tell them what the skit is and then film it, with them as the stars. Then later we go into our small studio and edit the footage into little movies, adding music and sound effects, as well as the occasional hilarious voice-over. Before they go home on Friday, the whole camp gathers and watches that week’s 15-20 minute “camp video”. Kids get to see themselves on a huge projector screen, chasing each other around, fighting evil, or even spoofing movies and TV shows (last year we did Harry Potter, Twilight, and Frankenstein.) Since everyone wants to be a star in front of their friends, video is many campers’ favorite activity (it was certainly mine back in the day) so it prides me to now be in charge of the thing that inspired me to make movies in the first place. Full circle, baby.

That’s the best I can do to describe FCDC without going into great detail. You’ll have to forgive me for the cliche, but words really can’t describe how this place makes you feel. It keeps you young, and although it pays decently for a summer camp, I’d do it for free.


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