My First Camp Friend
I remember the meeting like it was yesterday. My parents drove me to the synagogue on a weekday evening for what they told me was going to be a ‘pizza party with all of my friends.’ What they didn’t tell me was that a man was going to be there representing a sleep-away Jewish summer camp in Wisconsin. Wisconsin!?! (I grew up in Memphis). My parents were right about all my friends being at the synagogue that night. We watched a movie about the camp, got to ask questions, and plotted secretly in the corner how we would make our escape from the camp should our parents actually send us away. Of course, our parents did end up sending us to that camp. And I went kicking and screaming.
Fast forward four weeks: four weeks of singing songs in Hebrew, of making new friends from places I’d never heard of (Omaha? Where’s that?), of playing kickball and swimming in the cold, fishy lake, of having no television, of being away from the comfort of home. That last day of camp, I remember clearly talking with that new friend from Nebraska as our ten year old selves plotted how we could avoid getting on the bus so we’d never have to leave this place. This place called ‘camp.’ Of course, our counselors did end up getting us on the bus home. But I went kicking and screaming. I didn’t want to leave.
And the truth is, I never did. I still go back to camp. This summer will be my 15th on staff. I am the starting second baseman on the senior staff softball team, not because of skill, but because of seniority; and I’m okay with that. And though my father-in-law has questioned if I might be too old for summer camp, my friends who grew up with me remain insanely jealous that I get to return to that amazing experience each summer. Is there a lesson in this? I have no idea. But I can tell you this: a couple of weeks ago I went on a road trip with a friend of mine. We’re in our thirties and jamming out to tunes from our youth with the windows down. And at one point during our drive, my buddy turned down the music and told me of his intention to propose to his longtime girlfriend in the coming weeks. When we got back to New York, where we live, he proposed. And the wedding? It’s scheduled for 2013…in Omaha.