Egg in the hole. S’mores. Two of the most delicious foods I learned to create in Camp Kindervelt, an overnight camp in Highland Mills, N.Y.
“Hatikvah.” I learned the words to this song of hope in camp.
I also learned to hula hoop, create a French braid, tweeze my eyebrows, shave my legs, the dances of Israel, flirt, to respect myself and my strengths, become a responsible human being, and the joy and frustration of living and performing as part of a team.
It was a much simpler time then. Today we need some time to think, to breathe in a natural pollution free, tech-free environment, an environment where, for a short time, parents are not the influencers, and culture permeates everything we do.
Walking two-by-two to the dining room Friday evenings along with the entire camp staff and campers, Shabbat music on the speaker systems, dressed in white to celebrate the arrival of Shabbat warmed my heart then with the memories of these Fridays warming my heart to this very day. It was camp where I first understood I belonged to a community to be treasured and to be proud of.
Intentionally and carefully chosen staff were able to guide me in developing the skills needed to form well-thought-out decisions; how to successfully lead a bunk/cabin of 13 girls to winning the cleanest bunk/cabin award; and to winning the coveted flag for the most creative front porch. When I grew to be a teenager, one summer I helped lead a Color War team of hundreds of campers to a win. This is also when I fell head over heels for an older boy who was our team general. This older boy asked me to the final dinner dance. Trust me he could dance.
Camp molded and supported who I was, the Jewess I would grow up to be, who I am.
Every year, from the time I was 6 or 7 years old, I was sent to summer overnight camp. For the first few years I participated in a four-week session. As soon as camp was available for eight-week sessions, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I absolutely loved being in camp that much.
Of course it never dawned on me to question why my parents were so very happy, all smiles waving goodbye, when I finally reached the age of eligibility for the eight-week sessions. All I knew or cared about was I would be with all my summer friends, living what felt like was an independent, spirited life.
Every summer, as soon as the school year ended, on my birthday I might add, we packed up my Dad’s car to the hilt, seriously, and drove the hour or so up to Monroe, N.Y.
I loved the life of a camper, full of new experiences, emotional attachments, experimenting with crafts, dance, drama and my personality.
When I turned 15, I finally was able to live the life of a C.I.T. (counselor in training)
And then, I blew it.
Two days before an all-camp Color War (known today as Color Olympics) my bunk/cabin voted to break into the camp director’s office. At the time, this activity seemed like not-so-innocent fun. We felt it was imperative, perhaps even a matter of life and death, we must find out who the generals and captains were of each team.
One day before this auspicious event, we were all sent home. We realized, just a wee bit too late, we could live a nice long life without knowing who was chosen to perform the roles of generals and captains.
This is not the forum for questions regarding my Dad’s reaction to this news. The news that I was coming to the bungalow colony to live out the rest of the summer was not met with a parade. With the grace of G-d, there were only three more weeks left to the schlep back to “the city,” leaving this mistake at camp.
Fortunately for me, that same summer the day camp down the road needed help.
Do you believe in bashert? I do.
I worked in that day camp for two years, until my 18th birthday. Camp Kindervelt would not hire any of the girls from my bunk/cabin back, so I applied to Camp Kinderring, got the job and lo and behold, guess who was head of the waterfront? No guesses? Think bashert! Yes, my future hubby.
Nothing, and I mean not a thing, can replace what camp delivers.
Two, four, six, eight, who do we appreciate, camp, camp yay!