Giggles and Goodbyes

[Oops ... I opened this post up to fix a couple of typos, then saved it as a draft and forgot to re-load it. Thanks to Jonathan for pointing that out! And Jonathan ... I take the grandma thing as a compliment. Grandmothers are supposed to be mature and wise, right? Plus, I make some mean cookies! :) ]

Today was a day of giggles and goodbyes at Café Teria. It was the end of a session, the end of an era in the lives of certain older children and teenagers. They're all going home today, back to Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and Kentucky. For me, it's the end of a week of faces that have become familiar as they've passed through the doors of Café Teria; for these kids, the door is closing on what will become another memory of the summer of '05.

I knew today was the end of the camp/retreat session, but I hadn't really thought about it until I saw the kids posing with our wait staff, snapping pictures with digital cameras and cell-phones. Long-haired 14- and 15-year olds girls, dressed in their hip-hugging jeans and cap-sleeve t-shirts, snuggled up to Trey and Luke, some blushing, some teary-eyed, all grinning.

I have to smile to myself. Trey and Luke are good kids, but they're just ... kids. Teenage boys who entertain themselves endlessly by jumping as high as they can, to see if they can touch the ceiling. But now I see them in a different light: they're the older guys, high-school guys, with their deep voices, hint of beard stubble, jobs, and driver's licenses. Guys who work at camp. Guys that these blushing, giggling girls will probably never see again.

These boys have been flirting unabashedly with the girls all week. Each day, I smile to see the girls crowded around Trey and Luke's station, where the boys, wearing aprons over their regulation Café Teria shirts, collect trays, throw the trash into one garbage can, dump leftover food in the slop garbage can, and set the trays and dishes in the window for washing. I try to imagine this as a sexy activity, a grown-up activity.

I can't, at first. Then a little part of me remembers what it was like to be thirteen at the Acadian Baptist Center Camp in Eunice, Louisiana. A part of me remembers how I'd go blank and speechless when certain of the male counselors would talk to me, most of them students at Louisiana College, asking me such innocent questions as, "So, do you play piano for your youth choir?"

I'd blush and fidget and nod so imperceptibly that they'd repeat the question, not knowing I'd "answered."

And then there was Ted, the counselor with the Rob-Lowe eyes at summer camp when I was 14. On the last day of camp, amidst the crying and hugging and singing of "Friends are Friends Forever," I shyly asked Ted if I could take a picture with him. He smiled and said, "Sure!" My friend Amy took the picture, in which Ted put his arm around me and pulled me close and we both smiled. I was speechless for the next hour, except for the word, "Ohmygodtedjustputhisarmaroundme!!"

Of course, the next conquests were pictures of Amy with Chris, and then of Nancy with Chris. Chris, one of the younger counselors, was all grins as he took pictures with both girls, snuggling up to each for their photo. Once he was out of earshot, we all hugged and jumped up and down, we were so happy at that unexpected closeness, captured forever by our Kodak Disc cameras. At the same time, we were tearful and dejected because we knew we'd probably never see Chris again.

Ah, the emotional life of 14-year-olds ...

And then I remember being eighteen, being the same age as Trey and Luke (and Ted and Chris), feeling old, mature, and experienced in life, yet still feeling that hopeful thrill of having my whole life ahead of me.

It was a good place to be, mostly. Not all of the memories of that time are pleasant, but they are what they are. And it's kind of cool watching Trey and Luke, who are still kids but are well on their way to adulthood. I wonder what's next for them, and I'm excited for them. I hope they stay "good" and don't grow up too fast.

Meanwhile, they're not thinking about all of that, I'm sure. The future isn't going to start for awhile, as far as they're concerned. They're probably just wondering what next week's crop of girls will be like.

I guess I'll find out Monday!


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