Written by JJ Weiner
“How did that shirt get so dirty?” It’s the question that has been baffling Starlight parents for generations. Allow me to pull the curtain back and give you a glimpse of what happens to your son and that shirt during a typical day at camp.
That shirt is going to make three trips to the dining hall today. The junior boys are enthusiastic about their meals, but not all of them have mastered their utensils yet. If it’s pancakes for breakfast, you can be sure that not all of the syrup will stay in a neat dipping pile on their plate. Even though there is a napkin dispenser on each table, sometimes the shirt is just closer. Who really has time for napkins when you’re surrounded by your friends engrossed in a discussion about how great Polar Bear was this morning? And that’s just breakfast. At lunch there will be tomato soup and the dessert at dinner tonight is going to be watermelon. You do the math.
Junior boys lose things. It’s not due to any character flaws or personal shortcomings and it’s not because they’re overwhelmed by all their stuff. They’re eight years old. It happens. That shirt probably was crawling on the floor under a bed during cleanup to find a pair of earbuds.
The next stop for that shirt is the baseball diamond. It’s ground ball drills at Option today. The coach gave you one to dive for and you were happy to oblige. The great thing about Junior Boys is they don’t differentiate between a drill at Option and the seventh game of the World Series. Both get maximum effort.
If you have a few minutes after you come out of the water for swim instruction, there might be time for a sand castle. Junior boys are makers. That shirt will be with you when create a home for salamander that you discovered by the edge of the water.
During rest hour you might decide to join a few boys in the circle. That shirt will lie back in the grass and you’ll use those earbuds you found during cleanup and take a few quiet minutes to stare at the clouds.
It’s candle-making day at Arts and Crafts. You want yours to be a rainbow. A little dye might splash onto that shirt, but it will be worth it when you see the finished product. The counselors were helpful, but you still feel a great sense of independence and accomplishment.
That shirt will be drawn to Gaga during free play. The adrenaline rush is addictive. You’ll dive again. Your knuckles will get a little bit bloody, but there’s no way you’re getting out. You’ll wipe them on your shirt and keep playing. It’s that maximum effort thing again.
At night, that shirt will be part of a skit advertising a time machine. Your friends and counselors will erupt in laughter. A little bit of the face paint you used to turn yourself into an alien will migrate onto that shirt. It’s a small price to pay for the applause of an adoring audience.
This explains what happened to that shirt, but it doesn’t explain why your son loves that shirt. That shirt gives a sense of belonging and community. When you wear your Starlight shirt, you feel proud. Maybe you wore it to your first Wayne County game or maybe you wore it when you got a high five from a senior boy just for being you. That shirt represents an ideal society of freedom, friendship and fun. As a junior boy, once you get that feeling, you want to hang onto it. That shirt is now your favorite and even though it was supposed to go into the laundry, you’re probably going to wear it again tomorrow.
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