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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Peer Relationships: Same Gender

     The bugle blasted out the military call, “Assembly”, and the little girls came running from all over the campground, quickly finishing up any last minute conversational points. Falling into their respective ranks, colored tags now solidly displayed above every left breast pocket and not a lone red amidst the blue could be seen. Each little girl wore the white shirt and green tie of the Girl Scouts in front of the flagpole, bugler and Camp Director. Other personnel bordered the periphery of the assembled campers. The morning’s color guard advanced and hoisted the American flag as small hands flew to cover their hearts in salute. No more the rag-tag 10-year-olds of that first day but a smooth and solemn beginning to each morning at Day Camp. The Director completed the day’s scheduled assignments and activities with a stern reminder to come to the Dining Hall at the first sound of the bugle’s “Mess Call.” Stragglers would miss the ice cream cup dessert.

     “Sojourner, do you really think they wouldn’t give someone ice cream if they didn’t come fast enough?” Molly had grabbed on to my hand, as she had every morning since the start of Day Camp. “I mean, what if a girl had to go to the bathroom or something. My mom always tells us to go to the bathroom before coming to the table, but I don’t want to miss the ice cream.” Hmm, good point there.

     “You know, Molly, I really don’t know because I have never known anyone to not come right away, though Susie and Debbie do rather take their time about actually joining the line, don’t they?” I was chuckling as we walked. Just to think of those two little chatterboxes reminded me of the Director’s comment the day before on the way home.

     “Can you believe those two? If they could walk as fast as they both talk, we would have to impose a speed limit inside the grounds!”

     “I can see your dilemma, Molly. Would you like me to ask the Director about that?” The rapid nodding of my little shadow’s head was answer enough. “Okay, I have a meeting now so you need to head for the craft table with your group. I will see you later.”

     In our low budget program, I was the Assistant to the Director, mostly because I worked free, lived across the street from her, and had nothing more pressing my thirteenth summer of life. I was also a camp counselor, as was anyone who entered the campgrounds and could breathe – or so it seemed to me. The Director had a very persuasive way of acquiring temporary, on –the-spot volunteers whenever her friends stopped by. Lastly, but more obviously to the girls, I was the Camp Bugler. Or, as one camper put it, “the bell.” (I told the Director we might want to consider putting a little more time between the end of school and the start of camp next year.)

     Let me explain a little about Molly. I had never met the slim, quite pretty little girl before this camp. It was her first experience, as it was for most of the girls, actually. I really have not a clue why she attached herself to me, except, perhaps, that she only had brothers at home? But, why me and not another counselor? Crazy about the trumpet that was pretending to be a bugle and hoped to get to try a few notes? She never asked so that is not likely. Whatever the reason, I never moved anywhere in the camp without Molly’s hand in mine. In fact, sometimes this even got her in trouble as she left her group activity to run to me.  As you might have imagined, at thirteen, I didn’t really want a smaller body attached to mine with every step.

     “Mom, what can I do about this? I can barely breathe without Molly wanting to match me breath for breath. It’s making me nuts.” I liked the little girl; I really did, but I needed space.

     “Oh, Sojourner, I think it is sweet that she admires you, don’t you?” I did not say a word and sensed a lecture coming on here. “I know that little girl as she sometimes comes into the store. She’s so quiet. Maybe she just needs a big sister and she thinks you are nice.”

     “Mom, it’s camp. Everybody’s nice. Why me? Can’t I have one day or even one hour…” Okay, Mom was right, I was exaggerating but that’s what it felt like to me sometimes. How could I get her to stop without hurting her?
                                                                          Note: All names changed

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