A friend who just finished Last Summer at Eden mentioned she was surprised by all the romance in the book. She wrote this note across the top: “Isn’t it unlikely that hooking up would happen so much at a Christian camp?”
I was confused. Because, of course. Camp love stories are as common as the chigger bites and buttered corn. Right?
Then I learned that my dear friend had never been to camp, and so she had never experienced the aphrodisiac of sitting shoulder-to-shoulder by a smoldering campfire with her guitar-playing crush. She had never felt the particular just-got-off-the-late-shift giddiness that comes after a day of washing dishes, hiking and flirting with your new camp boyfriend.
I checked around to make sure the camp love story was a thing. Sure enough, everyone I asked had a camp romance story so nuanced, so widely celebrated, so detailed in the recall, I could break Camp Love into three distinctive levels.
The Camp Crush
I remember my camp crushes as clearly as the charred marshmallows we ate every summer. Back in the ‘80s, I used my Kodak Disc camera to take three rolls of film of the cutest counselor at Camp Lone Star. When I got home my parents sifted through my 70+ blurry pictures of one guitar-playing teenager, dumbfounded. I explained that I had wanted to capture the way he shook his shaggy hair out of his eyes as he rocked out to Fast Jesus Loves Me.
In the ’90s, I worked as a counselor at a California camp and crushed all summer on the Quintessential Camp Boy. He was brooding, deep, and (again) played the guitar. Every single female counselor had a story about him “really opening up to them” around a campfire and we were all tripping over our Birks to take our kids swimming with his cabin. Don’t even get me started about his “teachable moments.” He would bend down to tell his campers bits of wisdom like, “Look at how hard these ants work all day. But God takes care of them—can you believe He loves us even more?” We girls would marvel at his wisdom, which I know realize he had lifted straight from Jesus.
The Summer Romance
Another summer as a counselor, I had a summer fling. My friend, Amy, teased me for years for telling the “I love you” when we went home. But who doesn’t fall a little in love at camp? It’s the beautiful idyllic setting, lots of time living and working together (okay, ALL your time), and plus you’re working with kids. Now, as a fortysomething mom, I can tell you it’s STILL heart-fluttering to see my husband down on one knee, helping our kids look up a bible verse. Add in teen hormones, and it TOTALLY makes sense why so many counselors believe they’re falling in love.
The Forever Love Story
About twenty (some) years ago, I met a boy at camp who told me this: “I will keep going back to camp until I meet my wife.” My friend did eventually find his forever love at camp and he’s still married to her.
One camp couple I know fell in love at a Day Camp we worked at together. I watched them as they sang, flirted, and prayed together. All of us could see that these two were so energized in each other’s orbits. I remember telling my friend, “You are the most alive when you’re with him. Don’t let him go.” And she didn’t. They just celebrated twenty-one years together.
Another camp friend told me, “I have to marry my boyfriend. He has seen me at my worst and stuck with me.” Through nine weeks of sweltering heat, she had never put on mascara or blow-dried her hair. He had seen her sob at Bible study, puke after eating dog biscuits in Truth or Dare, dance the hokey pokey, wear the same t-shirt for three days straight, and pretend she was pooping for a talent show gag. My friend figured that if he could love her through all that, their relationship would be easy back in the world of washing machines and flat irons. She was right. Today, they’re still one of my favorite couples.
What romance did you find at camp? A crush? A short love story? Or a lifelong commitment—that started with the little spark of a summer together? Comment with your story.
Happy Valentines Day!
(Also, if you are a Camp Person, I would LOVE for you to join the Launch Team for Last Summer at Eden, my new YA novel. Click here to apply–you can read the book first, get all kinds of super-cute freebies, and spread the word about camp love!)