I am less than 48 hours to becoming a parent of campers; campers who will take my place in the history of URJ Camp Harlam. Campers who will walk where I walked, sleep where I slept, grow where I grew, and make friends that will continue to last a lifetime. Cliché? Perhaps. Is there much riding on their little eight year old shoulders? Not really. As much as I’d like to think it’s my 16th summer, it’s really their first and they can make it whatever it becomes. They certainly carry with them years of my stories with my friends who they all know like family, but I believe the summer becomes whatever they make of it.
It was certainly gratifying to see their eagerness at wanting to go this summer (great sales job, Sam!) and that it sustains until today. They have been listening to Debbie Friedman and the music of the Union camps since the day they were born. This was their decision – they chose Harlam. They appear excited and anxious – both ready to make new friends and carve their own history at Harlam. So we packed (more appropriately my wife packed – bless her, I wrote names in underwear and hovered about looking for my supervisor clipboard and General T-Shirt) and showed the girls what they had, so hopefully some of it comes home. Labels, sharpies, and personalized bags a plenty. We discussed what goes on the shelves, in the cubbies, and in the ubiquitous plastic drawers and bins. In my day, we only had cardboard bins. There were no peace signs in day glo neon on everything either. That was then, this is now. The music still moves me.
Among the most mind blowing aspects of their going to camp is the fact that they will share this experience with many other multi-generational campers. Not only are staff from my days there this summer to look out for them (I’m talking to you Ben and Bomze), but my campers will share their first summer with my friends’ kids in the same tzrif. Facebook messages keep coming in with bunk assignments. It’s quite powerful.
Will they go on midnight swims? Will they schmoogie the blue van? Will they enjoy milk squad? Will they shout “Yeah Sheor?” Will they bang on tables with abandon while singing “Sabbath Prayer?” Will their friends this summer appear in their wedding years from now? Will a shared camp experience bring us even closer together or will they come home speaking a language even foreign to me? I don’t know yet – I think that’s half the excitement. And believe me when I say I am prepared and can accept if their summer at camp isn’t everything it was to me. At least they had the opportunity and took the chance. I think that’s all we can ask for in life sometimes.
I hope it’s great, it’s hard not to want the best for your kids; but more so, I hope it’s great on their terms. That they create their own traditions, their own inside jokes, their own lifelong friends, and their own Jewish identity. I am who I am today because of 15 great years at Harlam – I look forward to getting to know my girls as they create their own Harlam identity.
- Adam Rosenberg, dad of Abby and Sophia, age 8