November 30, 2007 by Jo
Ever heard of it?
Drive the back way to Talladega, Alabama. You’ll see the sign. When you do, turn right on Shocco Springs Road. Drive through the woods (watch out for the speed bumps) and after just a few minutes you’ll see it. The famous Shocco sign.
Shocco Springs is a retreat center associated with the Alabama State Board of Missions and the Alabama Baptist Convention. This place has been in existence for over 50 years…in fact, I think 2008 is the 55th anniversary or something close to it. It is a gorgeous center with beautiful buildings, landscaping, and surrounding nature that is breathtaking. There are facilities for absolutely any kind of camp you can imagine and just about all kinds make use of the place throughout the year.
But for me, Shocco Springs is so much more than just a place where camp happens. It’s my second home.
Do you have one of those? I have a couple; but Shocco tops the list.
Let’s take it back a few years…
Summer of ’92. I’m 10 years old and had already travelled away to another overnight camp associated with my church. My mom, our Music Pastor, and our children’s choir teachers signed us up for Older Children’s Music Week at Shocco Springs, produced by the ALSBOM. I was nervous, but my best friend Rachel Weaver was rooming with us. It’d be a great 5 days.
On Monday, we load up the church van and drive the two hours to camp. Upon arrival we’re given our room keys and instructed to head to the Bagley Center (the main part of the conference facility) to sign up for our classes. We wait in line with other eager young singers and end up enrolled in Ms. Hilda Hagins class.
The schedule is basic; breakfast at 7:30, class from 8-11, worship from 11-12, lunch, class from 1-2:30, recreation/crafts from 2:30-5, dinner at 5, class from 5:30-7:30, nightly fun time (talent shows, short musicals, concerts, etc.) from 7:30-8:45, free time until 9:15, devotion led by our floor’s counselor until 9:45, lights out at 10:15.
The week was totally perfect. We made so many new friends, ate delicious Shocco food, learned new songs to take back to our choirs at home, and got to perform in front of the entire (700+ people) camp. Mom let me and Rachel stay up all hours of the night playing cards on the bathroom floor with the door closed so we wouldn’t get in trouble after “lights out” from the big scary campus security guy.
Fast forward to 1998. I’m gawky, dorky, and full of myself when it comes to music. I’ve attended camp as a camper for three summers and as a teacher’s assistant/church chaperone for three more. I’m now 16 with a horrible haircut, PERFECT teeth, and fresh off a three-week excursion through Great Britain and Ireland without my parents.
I, my friends, was finally a Counselor (with a capital C).
As Counselor, there are myriad duties: leading nightly devotions, serving as counselors during morning worship, guiding a team of 25-40 kids through their two hours at recreation, and assisting teachers as needed throughout the week. You get a paid, get a room with a cool roommate, and the esteem of being “in charge”.
My first year as a Counselor I did what I usually do after acquiring a new position; I stepped up to the plate and knocked a home run out of the park. I was a hit with the kids, the parents/chaperones, the teachers, my bosses. Felt good.
I was also, however, NOT one of the “cool kids”. I kept to myself when it came to hangin’ out with the other Counselors. I just did my duty, enjoyed every minute of it, and went home.
Fast foward again…now we’re in 2001 and life is drastically different. I’d finally realized what my personal style was, had a couple boyfriends, graduated high school, interviewed for my first job, and landed my first job (which I would start upon my return home). It was good. That summer week, which would mark my 9th at Shocco Springs, I met a summer staffer (that means he worked for the actual facility; I just worked for the camp renting the facility) named Jamey. We totally hit it off and left camp as a couple, dating for several months long distance.
And then it happened: Shocco became part of my every day life. Just like that, I couldn’t shake it. Every single day something would remind me of camp.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when 2002 comes along and the greatest Shocco discovery yet happens…I meet Shelli Boyles.
This chick, even though she was years younger than me, was awesome. She was mature, smart, and extremely funny. She got me, I got her, and that was that.
Speed up to 2004: I’m named Head Counselor and given more duties. Shelli’s by my side, keeping me sane.
2005, I earn even more responsibilities, including assigning all of the campers to their classes. Guess who sat next to me at the table, learning along with me? Shelli.
2006, I’m officially a big dog. Between this camp and the next, it’s announced that our head huncho is retiring and I realize what 2007 is going to hold.
But Shelli was there, ready and waiting. Since 2002 we had been fast friends, spending a week a summer together and keep in touch through phone calls and emails outside of camp. Until this year.
THIS year was the ONE. The BIG YEAR.
First of all, I’ve never brought a boyfriend from home to work at camp with us. Jeff went, and was great. He took pictures and served as campus security.
Secondly, I was right about my responsibilites. They doubled. I was busy the entire week.
And C, it was my first year as a counselor where I didn’t actually counsel. I’d been promoted…but now I didn’t get to connect with the kids as much.
But most importantly, this was the first year in all of our many at Shocco together that Shelli and I got to be roommates. THE BIG YEAR. The final test….would we survive?
And survive we did. Shelli, who has been earning her status as One of My Absolute Best Friends Ever (OMABFE), proved that she is one of the only females outside of my family I could actually live with. She was the perfect sounding board, encourager…and she kept me smiling no matter what.
So THIS YEAR, now that THE BIG YEAR has passed, we’ve moved to a new level in a lot of ways. We talk A LOT more. I’ve seen her plenty of times since camp ended, even though almost 2 hours seperate us. She’s seriously considering moving up here to Huntsville. She’ll be in the wedding party and probably handle most of the planning.
She’s my Shizzelli, my girl.
And she’ll be here TONIGHT!