30 some odd years ago, I worked my way through late high school and college as a camp counselor. It was the best summer job I ever had. I was outside all day, I got to work with kids, I made tons of friends. We spent many a late night in the bathroom eating animal cookies and violating curfew. We formed life long values, and I fell in love for the first time.
My favorite time of day at camp was vespers. This marked the end of the camper’s day. Lights were out, kids were all snug in their sleeping bags on bunks, I lit a candle, and we talked. While the rest of the camp day was pretty regimented, we, as counselors, were given a fair amount of leeway about what we discussed during vespers. With the older kids, we talked about love and relationships, cliques and drugs, sex and family values. Religion, politics, and divorce. These talks often last well into the night, sometimes long after the time when I could say “sleep tight” and escape to the staff lodge for some well deserved debauchery.
But, I think my most memorable vespers were those with the younger kids. The first night I always asked kids why they came to camp. Some came with friends, or some had older siblings that loved camp and were there at the same time. There were other stories. “I came because my dad needs a vacation from me”. “My parents just split, and we had to come to camp so they can move my bedroom into my mom’s place, my brother is gonna live with my dad.” “Mom and dad both work in the summer, and my baby sitter is on vacation”. “This is my week with dad, but he has a new girlfriend, and they went to Hawaii without me”. After a few days, most of the kids had adjusted to and even liked the time away from home. But, there were always a few that had a harder time. Those kids were clingy. They wanted to hold my hand, or always be behind me in line, sit next to me at the table. There was tension because I only had two sides, two hands, and 8-10 campers. That’s when I knew it was time for the “love” vesper.
I lit a candle, and gave everyone else a candle. I told them I was like a candle, and my love was the flame. I told them that love, like the flame, doesn’t run out just because you give some away. Love is infinite. I then lit everyone’s candle. My flame did not get smaller, but the room got a lot brighter. They got it. I still had kids that wanted to hold my hand, but there was less tension when someone else needed it.
When Emerald was 2, Jim was reluctant to have another child. After some talk, he revealed that Emerald was just perfect, and he couldn’t imagine loving another kid as much as he loved her. Jim adored his daughter, and when Jasper arrived he loved him with abandon. There was little sibling rivalry between Jasper and Emerald when they were growing up. I think they knew, that though money, dad’s time, and mom’s energy were finite resources in this house, that love is infinite.
I have to think that if I am ever fortunate enough to fall in love again, it will be like that. A new love would never replace or diminish the love I had, and will always have, for Jim. It will just make the room a lot brighter.