Monday, July 13, 2009

Carrying Baggage

Since neither my husband nor I ever went to overnight camp as kids, we kind of botched up a few things as we sent our kids off last Thursday.

First of all we sent the kids with real luggage, like the rolling king of luggage you would take on an airplane. We got to the the synagogue rendezvous point and, trust me, there was no baggage like this besides our kids'. Their bags stood there - green, bulky and square, with roller wheels on the bottom - while every other bag was a soft-side duffel. When they head off on their camping trips into the forest, my children will need a valet.

I can't help it that I was raised like a wolf. My mother's idea of summer camp in Skokie was to shoo me and my six sisters out of the house into the garage to play all day. We'd wait for the milkman; then we'd wait for the pop man. Or maybe some boys would ride by from the other school district and we would chase them - that one activity could occupy us until school started in September. That was a typical summer.

Since my parents were Holocaust Survivors, they didn't quite understand the concept of summer camp. First of all, the word "camp?" Not good. Concentration Camp, Displaced Persons Camp, Labor Camp - those were camps. After all, they had both come out of the DP camps after the war. Were they expected to send their own children there on purpose? Of course not. Also, it cost money. My parents only spent money on food and shelter. If there was any money left over, my dad bought a new station wagon.

My parents also couldn't understand why we'd be interested in the deprivations of camp. Why would I want to give up living in the lap of luxury in Skokie in a three-bedroom house with nine people, sharing a bedroom with four sisters and sharing the bathroom with seven? How could I give up the authentic immigrant feistiness of my family - the fistfights over a salami, murder over a matzo ball - to go live among American strangers?

But on camp drop-off day, my kids are oblivious. Even paranoid Bar Mitzvahzilla, who will micromanage his underwear, doesn't care about having baggage that clearly shows not only is he a novice at this, but his parents? Novices too.

Their bags get on the bus, they get on the bus, and they're gone.

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