“Five more minutes”, I sigh in relief as I look down at my pink digital watch. My stomach is starting to eat my insides I’m so hungry. It’s past the growling stage. I need to eat. It has been two hours since my buzzing phone alarm went off. The recreation hall is full with over eighty people waiting to get in.
I can smell breakfast; the chatter in the recreation hall lets me know I’m not the only one wanting the bright red door leading to the dining hall to open. “Creak”, Margaret the head cook opens the doors. “Cabin one!” I scream out over the crowd trying to get things moving. It feels like forever before my cabin, number four is called. “Get into a straight line!” I yell to my campers before we head in.
Meal time was an art form, a theatrical production. Every meal was a different production. Meal times were carefully strategized. As soon as the doors were opened one counselor from each cabin would rush a head to turn over one plate at every table. “Do not sit at the chair with a turned over plate, those seats are for counselors”, Luc, a fellow councillor yelled. Each cabin was designated four tables and a side food table.
“Alright who is on diabetic snack? And who is doing special diets? And who is thickening liquids?” we asked each other as we gathered around our cabins food table. Once we figured out who was doing what, we checked our cheat sheets for our campers’ restrictions, and then dispersed. Some counsellors went to get the food for the campers with dietary restrictions, and the rest of us grabbed a food item and started making our rounds serving each camper. Once the food was handed out we would serve drinks and make sure that the campers that required their food diced, minced, or pureed were taken care of.
It was finally our turn to get our food. By this time most of the food was cold. This never really mattered because we were all so hungry. The only time you got a hot meal was when you were on dorm duty the night before. If you had the dorm the night before you get a three hour break in the morning to catch up on sleep. When on break you get to sit at the back table with our two bosses and the other counsellors who were on dorm duty the night before. Sitting at the back you were a part of the audience rather than the performance.
The breakfast that was always the biggest hit with the counselors, was the baked oatmeal. As you walked into the dining hall the sweet smell surrounded your body. The fluffy oat and sugar mixture bounced with perfection as it was placed on each bowl. The oatmeal was the consistency of a warm, spongy pancake, which warmed you as soon as the spoon went in your mouth. The baked oatmeal wasn’t complete without creamy milk to transform the loaf into a moist, master piece. The sugar from the loaf turns the milk into liquid candy. With each bit making you crave more. By the end of the meal you are so full your stomach has expanded to double the size.
“Cassie, Cassie strong and able get your elbows off the table, this is not a horses stable but a first class dining table,” the dining hall begins to chant. “What, my elbows weren’t on the table! Who did this?” I bitterly think in my head. I have no choice but to stand up and start skipping around the room. “It must have been Luc,” I decide. “Round the table you must go, you must go; round the table you must go my fair Cassie. Back around the other way, other way, other way, back around the other way my fair Cassie. You must do a SONG, DANCE, SONG, DANCE, my fair Cassie,” the dining hall continues to sing.
Everything is now silent, all eyes are on me. “What am I going to sing and dance to?” I ponder and I begin to get anxious. “Whhhhyyyy are we waiting, whhhhyyyy are we waiting?” the dining hall begins to chant.
“In Western Philadelphia born and raised on the play ground is where I spent most of my days ...” I begin to rap. “Dance,” Luc yells from his seat. I start leaping and spinning around the dining hall as I continued with my rap. I finally finish. “Phew,” I close my eyes and take a big breath in and exhale. It’s amazing how stressful mealtime can be.
Mealtime is only getting started. I take my seat; all my campers are full of smiles as they laugh at my performance. “Can we have some more oatmeal?” my campers ask. “Sure,” I say as I begin to stand up and walk over to our food table. “I have only had two bites, and they want seconds,” I complain in my head. After serving my table I quickly rush back to my seat. Alright I mean business.
Remember that rule your mother always told you, “Cassie, don’t talk with your mouth full!”My mom would always remind me as a child. This rule no longer applied to me. Our bosses sat at the back table watching to make sure that you were always talking and engaging all your campers. This meant learning to talk with your mouth full or else the campers would finish their seconds before you began your first.
Once the campers had finished their meals it was time to leave. Everyone knew that making your campers wait only lead to major problems. “Can we go back now?” my campers began to ask. Scooping two large spoonfuls of oatmeal into my mouth, I jumped up and started to clear the table. Breakfast was finally finished, overall everything had gone smoothly. This is not normal, but for now I’m not going to question it. It’s only 9am.