Well, it feels like summer is cancelled. I find myself with bubbles and crayons and not a single kid to share them with. Used to be, by this time of year we are in full swing at the Art Center playing games, dancing in the theater and making pottery only our grandmas would love. I feel like a (wo)man without a country. Damn you, pandemic. I am left with only sweet memories of years past and a few mishaps that are always worth a chuckle. 

My first year running the Summer Art Camp we had a sweet little boy join us from out of town, a grandson of a local, here for just the summer. Right away we realized this guy was the sensitive type. Not quiet and broody, more like whiny and moody and, because we knew his grandma, we all walked on eggshells. Things were going along swimmingly right up until he burned off his fingerprint with a hot glue gun. (On my watch!) 

I’ve mentioned in a past column that when I took over the Art Center I didn’t have a lot of practice managing kids and, to be honest, my first instinct was to drive him out to the woods and leave him there, but I didn’t. Instead I listened to him cry and carry on until his grandma came and picked him up. I then endured the wrath of a grandma scorned. He didn’t come back, and we didn’t call. We did, however, put away all the glue guns. 

A few years later another delightful child joined us. He was not “sensitive,” just unlucky, and yet another grandson of a local couple just trying to expose the guy to rural life. On the day in question, during a project using staplers, our little city friend stapled his hand to his project. Not many staplers back in the city, I guess. His teacher (my sister) ran to the office, dragging him by the hand essentially hiding it from him so he wouldn’t see the staple protruding from the softest part of his hand. We went outside and decided the only thing to do was pull it out fast. We did and what leapt out was a scream to beat all screams and tears and blood and snot. Eventually he went back to grandma and strangely enough he came back the next day and the day after that. We were in the clear, so we thought. 

The following week was one of the hottest on record. To avoid walking in the heat we used my little pick-up to drive the kids to the library for lunch. After loading up kids and taking extra care of our injured camper we started out to the library only to stop because apparently Staple Boy had sat on a bee. UnBEEliveable! After that, the kid made me nervous. I watched him eat his snacks, just in case he choked, made sure his shoes were tied good and tight when we went outside and made sure he got in the right car when it was time to go home. 

The following year we had a child we only knew as The Cryer. He cried if he was mad, sad, happy, bored, hungry or didn’t like the color blue. We didn’t know how to console him or how to keep him hydrated. We finally just let it happen. If he started to cry, we just let him. Ironically, for our parade float that year he wanted to be the sun. Go figure.

To hear me tell it, summer camp sounds like a real bloodbath. It can be. It’s also sweet when we play freeze dance and eat popsicles and we make art with our new friends. Its fun to spend my June birthday with kids who are more excited than me for cake and ice cream. It’s fun to just have fun with a bunch of kids, scraped knees and all.

Summer isn’t cancelled, it just looks a little different this year. Make art with your friends, play freeze dance and eat popsicles. Just avoid the kid we called The Cryer.