I despise monotony.
Schedules are not my favorite thing in the world.
Doing the same thing at the same time day after day after day drives me crazy.
Teaching is a good profession for me, eh? I’m likely to set something on fire in the fourth month, just to spice things up.
A few days ago at the camp where I spend my summers, we had a Penny Carnival, popularly considered by the camp staff one of the greatest things known to man. At Penny Carnival, each cabin runs a different booth in the center of camp. Campers take turn running each booth and everyone is free to mill about, betting on turtle races and dragging unsuspecting prey over to the dunk tank, where a roll of the die decides whether they are baptized by bucket, water bottle or dixie cup. And every person is given three glorious snack tickets: one ticket for a cupcake, one ticket for cotton candy, and one ticket for Navajo Fry Bread. FOR FREE. Very few things in the world are as wonderful as those three tickets. The only things that immediately come to mind are a cupcake, some cotton candy, and a piece of Navajo Fry Bread.
As head counselor, I did not have a booth of my own. My job was to rove the carnival, supervising campers and offering counselors a break when they could get it. Being called upon to relieve a counselor in a single cabin that required some extra attention, I ended up spending half the carnival with the oldest girls’ cabin, running the kissing booth. Now, before you google my summer camp and withdraw your children in horror, let me explain.
The kissing booth works like this:
1. You approach the kissing booth.
2. You are blindfolded. (It gets less sketchy, I promise)
3. You are given one of six objects to kiss: an apple, a toad, a frog, a pinecone, some jelly, or a rock.
4. You keep the blindfold on.
6. You guess which object you kissed.
7. If you have not previously destroyed the nerve endings in your lips in some horrible accident, you guess correctly, and you are given the power to choose one object on the table. The counselor leading the kissing booth must then kiss the object of your choosing.
8. Because you are a human being between the ages of ten and twenty-two years old, you choose the frog or the toad.
I worked the kissing booth for a full hour, and let me tell you, there was some serious human-on-amphibian action. Don’t get me wrong; I truly do not mind kissing frogs. They’re slimy, sure. But let’s be honest. Human lips are not dry. Don’t pretend they are. The first time someone kissed me on the mouth, my initial thought was AAACK! YOUR FACE IS ON MY FACE. AND IT IS DAMP. AND IT IS MOVING. WHERE DID YOUR FACE GO? WHERE IS MY FACE? HELP.*
I live a romantic life.
But seriously. The actual frog-kissing was not the problem. There are only so many times, however, that you can kiss a frog in exchange for watching someone else kiss a spoonful of jelly. Kissing amphibians quickly becomes tedious. It was nice to alternate between Frog and Toad, but they did not seem too emotionally invested, except the one time Frog tried to slip me a little tongue. As I descended into boredom, I began to vary the experience by offering to kiss different amphibious body parts. Stomach. Eyeball. Back right leg. I can safely say that I have kissed every part of a frog or toad that does not excrete fecal matter.
As the carnival progressed, I decided we really needed to rock the boat. So the campers and I started spinning a clever web of deceit by blindfolding people and then putting jelly on the rock. People underestimate the value of subtlety in rebellion. “HA” we would laugh, “You fools! That wasn’t a ROCK you kissed!! It was a JELLY ROCK!” Most people, unfortunately, were observant enough to notice that the rock they were kissing was sweeter and more sugary than most rocks typically are in their natural state.
So we really started to mix things up by putting jelly on both the apple and the pinecone.
When this was no longer enough to entertain me, I began to encourage campers to lure staff members over to the booth. I would reassure my co-workers of the benign nature of the activity, then utterly betray their trust. When a counselor leaned forward to kiss a rock, a pinecone, or a little green frog, I suddenly thrust a moldy log toward their lips, or a camper’s shoe, or a fox pelt.
Things may have gone a bit beyond my control when I coerced two male counselors into kissing my rather malodorous foot (the smell once described as poopy cabbage diapers in an onion field) and they forced me to pay retribution by kissing the folds between their toes.
I live a romantic life.
Here’s the thing. I work at a job where the schedule is the same every single day. I wake up. I staff prayer. I breakfast. I chapel. I clean. I teach. I lifeguard. I lunch. I bunk time. I team-build. I lifeguard. I dinner. I capture the flag. I play games. I lead devotions. I sleep.
And some days, that schedule just seems like a great big, horrible mountain of AGAIN.
But a mentor of mine shared a G.K. Chesterton quote at the beginning of the summer that I’d like to share with you now.
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
Hot darn, G.K. You two-initialed British writers and your beautiful explications of traditional Protestant Orthodoxy…
Do it again. You’re asked to do that so often at summer camp, whether it’s throwing a bucket of water at the slide, or lighting twelve matches at once, or singing with your mouth closed, or braiding hair inside out, or demonstrating a canoe stroke, or shooting an arrow, or kissing a frog.
Do it again. Forgive. Clean the bathroom. Do the dishes. Wipe your nose. Listen. Compromise. Give up. Hang up laundry. Feed the dog. Rewrite the paper. Apply for that job. Try not to stall it in first gear.
Kids can have that remarkable way of doing it again. That’s one of the most amazing parts of my job. When you visit their campout in the woods, they run up and grin at you with their charcoal-smeared faces and drag you from one pile of sticks to another pile of pinecones with more joy than you’re sure you’ve ever felt. They keep pulling your arm ‘til it feels made of rubber, then they collapse and ask if you can sing “Lord Prepare Me to Be a Sanctuary” for the twelfth time that week before they go to sleep.
And then you wake up in the morning and do it again.
*Side note: My views on kissing have since moved in a more positive direction.
Lauren (Boersma) Harris (’13) is a spontaneous, idealistic, independent, fierce, over-thinking, damaged, adventurous, ordinary megalomaniac with a healthy sense of self-worth and a high word count. She has been a teacher both indoors and outdoors; she loves improvised comedy, backpacking, and writing, even when it’s required.