|Aaron at the airport, on the way to Ramah Outdoor Adventure|
I was the last of the kids in my family to agree to go to summer camp. My older brother was already in his fourth year of summer camp, and even my younger sister, not yet 8 years old, eagerly went away to a sleepaway camp. Going to summer camp, it seemed to us, was a rite of passage in growing up. It was what was done. My father, a poor inner-city Boston Jewish kid of the depression, had gone to summer camp. He said his counselor at his camp was Mike Wallace, only he didn't go by Mike Wallace then, he was Myron something, and every time we watched Sixty Minutes my dad would say something back to the TV, probably answering some bad thing counselor Mike must have said to him decades earlier. Of course we all went to summer camp.
With all of us kids off to camp, of course that meant my parents were all alone in the house. I don't think I ever considered it much from the parents' point of view, though. Maybe they took an occasional couple of days down to the Jersey shore? I'm not even sure, all these years later. But the house was empty of kids, and from that summer forward they were "empty nesters" for several weeks.
Earlier this week, Lori and I became "empty nesters." Seven and 8-week summer camps are mostly a thing of the past; among other things, it's way too expensive. But Elianna was itching to go, and last year -- at age 10 -- we sent her to Camp Ramah in Canada. Four decades after I started going, that actually seemed on the young side; maybe as parent my perspective had simply changed. She came back glowing.
|Elianna boarding the bus for Ramah in Canada|
But this year, Aaron surprised us. He asked to go away. He wanted to meet new people and do new things. He's 15. I couldn't help but recall that when I was 15, I was in my 5th and final year as a camper at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. Ramah Canada wouldn't work for Aaron; at 15 they still require a full summer's commitment and we weren't interested in that. But Ramah Outdoor Adventure fit perfectly. Early last Monday morning, we put Aaron on a plane to Colorado.
Elianna was home long enough after Aaron left to write him 2 letters -- outbound is all electronic now. In the first one, she wrote, among other things, "Dad's gone all mathematical so I can't understand him." She didn't let me see the 2nd one before sending.
This Monday, Elianna got on the bus for Ramah Canada. And so, for 3 weeks and 2 days, we're all alone. I'm not even sure yet what we'll do; the Jersey shore seems out of the question. Mostly, it seems I'm waiting on letters from the kids... how odd is that?
Today, then, was the big day: The first letters from both kids arrived. Aaron's, via US Mail, and Elianna's electronically. They both opted to taunt me. Aaron: "I am meeting a lot of new people and everyone thinks I am really funny, Dad." Elianna: "And btw, Dad, you are very very mistaken. I love you more. Yes I do xoo." May I be blessed with more taunting like that!
The empty nest is a preview, of sorts. I suppose I now understand "the other side" from when I was 10. I do have one advantage, at least: I get to sift through pictures from camp most days. It's a bit less lonely that way. They'll be back in less than 3 weeks.