|My first visiting day: 1973.|
As it was last year, Elianna is off to Camp Ramah in Canada, and Aaron is off to Ramah Outdoor Adventure in Colorado. The house is quiet. The food goes more slowly. The days seem longer... and yet they go by too quickly.
|Arriving at her 2nd home: Camp Ramah.|
That was 40 years ago, and as I think of it, thanks to facebook I can reach out to several campers and a counselor who were with me in Bunk A-4 that summer. Ramah was where I first kissed a girl, and first had a crush on a girl -- in that order, because everyone kissed on shabbat. I counted kisses that first year. And it was also a place where summers could get too hot or too rainy, where lightning could strike the beit degel (flaghouse) while our counselors were inside it, where pink eye could spread at lightning speed, where I could kill over 100 mosquitos while trying to write one letter to a friend (I counted those, too, but not the ones I missed), and where kids in the pre "no bullying" days could -- and sometimes would -- just be mean.
But I loved being there. It was my 2nd home, in my mind. Wingdale, NY. 12594.
Ramah Canada is like my old Berkshires camp, in some respects. It has a lake that's the centerpiece of the camp. The kids are grouped in to single-age groups (edahs). They have some mix of activities, and also swimming and boating, to fill their days. And they bond with one another. Their session is much shorter -- just 23 full days, as compared to 53 when I went. But I am in awe of their commitment to one another. In February, one of Elianna's friends had a bat mitzvah. In Montreal. Elianna had to go, it was a mission. So we all went. She is inseparable from her best friends at camp. And she is growing up. Last year all the boys grossed her out. This year, she reported -- to her grandmother! -- that "dressing up all pretty for the boys is half the fun" of getting ready for shabbat. Then there's this:
|The outfits aren't all-white anymore, but the spirit is the same.||Friends at camp.|
Today the digital pictures come pouring in by the hundreds from the camps multiple times per week; I don't even need to receive letters to tell me what they're wearing or who they're with or if they've got a good smile going. I have become expert at recognizing my children from a wristband or a shoe. I email letters to the kids and they get the printouts the next day. Aaron still has to use stamps and envelopes to respond, but Elianna's letters get turned in to emails that I receive within a day or two. She is the letter champion so far this year: 9 letters home, 3 to her grandmother, and another 6 to a best friend, all in the first week of camp. And, I almost hate to say it, her letters are all riotously funny.
With not even half the days we had, camp time seems more urgent now. Summer camps de facto compete with other programs for parents' attention, and so the activities are often much more targeted than the "field sports" that typically ended up on my schedule. Both of my children have taken first aid courses at camp this summer; Elianna in CPR and Aaron in Wilderness First Aid.
As for Aaron, the camp name may say "Ramah," but when they say "Adventure," they're not kidding! His session -- 3 days longer than his sister's -- includes a pair of 6-day wilderness trips, with significant physical challenges thrown in. Mountain biking, rock climbing -- real rocks, in the Colorado rockies, extensive hikes over passes, making camp and surviving real wilderness conditions. The kids have to co-operate, in order to make their trips successful. The pictures are breathtaking. There's another thing about his Ramah: the kids aren't all from one area or of one race. I am openly jealous of the experiences he is getting now, and happy for all the lifelong memories and bonds he and his friends are surely generating.
|Aaron hiking a mountain pass, July 24, 2013|
For the next 2 weeks, though, the nest stays empty. The kids are off at camp.
addendum (August 2): While Ramah is certainly not the only summer camp with a strong aspect of l'dor vador (generation to generation) to it, I have learned of some of the impact of generational continuity there, in our case. Aaron's edah last year included a daughter of one of my co-campers in bunk A-4 in 1973; Elianna's edah this year includes a son of a woman who was in my edah starting in 1976.