A First-Time Camp Grandparent
by Rosanne Selfon
I have to say: Being a grandparent of a camper in 2012 is very different from being a camper’s young parent in 1980. For some unknown reason, I wasn’t worried about anything significant when 8-year-old Lysa, our older daughter, began her years at URJ Camp Harlam. My looming concern was if she could make her own ponytail. In fact, her first postcard read, “Mom, I made my own ponytail. Love, Lysa.” Those few words made my day! I carried around that card for days.
Fast-forward 32 years and another generation in our family has begun its Harlam years. My husband David and I are thrilled that our grandkids will build lifelong relationships and develop a keen sense of Jewish identity through summers at Harlam.
How is it different to be a grandparent rather than a parent? Well, today’s technology makes a difference. Admittedly, I hit my computer nightly searching Bunk1 for glimpses of Madaline. I wait for text messages from faculty members who are at camp – that instant knowledge that she is happy, making friends, and smiling make me feel glad, relieved. Full disclosure: Our younger daughter Amanda was on faculty the first two weeks and discreetly stole glances at the Carmel Unit so she could share Madaline’s camp days without overt spying! I wait for Lysa, now the mom, to call with her ecstatic ”I got letters” voice that reminds me of me of when I got letters from her as a little girl; her joy is contagious. The words l’dor v’dor keep playing in my head.
Here’s more good news I hold close (since being a grandparent makes me one circle removed from the center of information): In the somewhat chaotic world in which we live today, I know that Madaline is safe, secure, and lovingly watched over by a competent, well-trained staff. Our Reform camps, first and foremost, are concerned about the health and safety of the youngsters entrusted to them. That encompasses everything from onsite nurses and doctors to an experienced camper care staff to a cadre of counselors who want to give the next generation the positive experiences they have had. I also know that bullying isn’t tolerated and that building sacred community is a goal. Perhaps I don’t worry because I know all this to be true.
Most importantly, however, I am aware that camp fortifies living Jewish lives. Madaline will return to Philly and her congregation singing the songs with the crazy motions, having new Jewish friends, thinking camp is absolutely awesome, and loving being Jewish. She will have launched a relationship with her young rabbi, who she will see wearing shorts, singing, playing ball, swimming… in other words, being a real person. Being Jewish will become like breathing air to her. No longer will it be relegated to attending Sunday School days.
Safety, good health, happiness, and joy… what more could a Jewish grandmother want? A promise: This bubbie will adore hearing all the stories and laughing at the escapades, write cards and send packages the whole session, and daily thank God that our Movement has a camping system which, I believe, will help to secure the engagement of another generation of Jews.