Joshua, our 9-year old son, was going to have a great summer. My spreadsheet was well organized with a range of engaging and fun camp activities. From Radical Reptiles at the National Zoo, to Minecraft coding camp, to a very special Roads Scholar week in Vermont with grandma, and a second year of sleep away camp with one of his buddies, it was going to be great! Then, like a stack of Jenga blocks, it all crumbled. I know how fortunate we are to have resources for a varied camp summer. All the same, coming after months of quarantine, distance learning, attempting to keep our jobs, this was salt in the wound.
After all the cancellations, we learned that the sleep away camp that Joshua was supposed to attend was offering a new “Family Camp” option, that would allow campers to go, with their families, for a few days at camp. We immediately contacted the family of Joshua’s sleep away camp buddy, booked our Family Camp slot, and got excited for this adventure.
I attended camp as a kid, but resisted sleep away camp. I was an only child (for 10+ years), didn’t have much self-confidence, and sleep away camp just seemed scary. The one summer I attended sleep away camp I didn’t have a very good time. Now I was an adult, still not with the greatest self-confidence, but I was sure I could get through four days.
Over our brief visit we connected with nature, learned new skills, weren’t tethered to screens, connected with friends and met new people. Every day had a similar pattern. Rise from your bunk, get dressed and head to the dining hall. The canoe outside the dining hall, transformed into a solar-powered hand-washing station, reminded me of the great creativity we each possess to develop innovative (and really cool) solutions to our world’s problems (climate change and the pandemic). Much of our delicious and hardy breakfast came from the farm right on the camp property.
Our four activity periods differed every day. Archery reminded me of the value of focus and practice. Joshua scaled a tall tree in the climbing area of camp, and when he Joshua was scared and stopped about 2/3 of the way up the tree, a counselor encouraged him to set a goal and go a bit further – and he did! After one rainy day we marched out into the woods and learned how to build a fire. Our sessions at the garden, farm and nature center at camp taught the kids and reminded the adults of how life is intertwined and fragile, and our role in preserving it (I did draw a line at Joshua’s request to build a chicken coop in our yard). Our daily visits to the lake were cooling and relaxing.
As we approach the High Holidays, I hope to retain the gifts of camp. The importance of family and connections, our responsibility for our precious world, to think creatively, remember my own resilience, and that keeping life simple can be difficult, but is healing and a balm to the soul.
I wish you peace, health, and connectedness. Shana Tova.