Camp is over. We are back at home. Back to grocery shopping and driving carpools, folding laundry and cooking dinner. In some ways, it’s nice to be home. We have air conditioning here, and comfortable furniture. But being away at Camp Ramah was an amazing experience. I learned during the first week at camp, that the word “ramah” means a high place, like a mountaintop. The motto for camp is “Elevate Your Summer.” This motto rings so true for me right now, as I re-enter the real world with both its creature comforts and also its mundane responsibilities. I look forward to next summer when I can ascend to that high place again.
Before I fully reenter my real-life world as a mom and teacher, I want to take one last look at the experience we had as a family this summer. I’ve spoken about my job. I’ve also spoken about how much S thrives at camp. I want to tell you a little bit about G’s experience.
This summer, as I struggled with the decision over working at Camp Ramah for the summer, a huge piece of the puzzle was what it would mean for G. At first, I wasn’t sure that bringing G to Ramah was a good decision. The childcare program for staff kids (called “The Gan”) sounded wonderful… but intense. The kids are dropped off right after breakfast and stay with The Gan all the way until dinner at 6:30. They have a full roster of activities: from sports to arts and crafts, Jewish studies to swim lessons. I worried that G wouldn’t be able to keep up. That he would go to all of the activities, but have trouble participating. That he would spend the summer on the sidelines.
In the end, the highlight of the summer was watching G absolutely thriving in the Gan. Everywhere I went in camp, I saw G with his friends from Gan. Every time I saw him, he was smiling, laughing, and interacting. I saw him playing soccer. I saw him at his two electives (cooking and outdoor cooking). I heard him initiate a conversation in Hebrew with his Israeli swim teacher. I saw him walking from the dining hall back to the Gan’s meeting place. One day, I saw him racing with a friend, then they stopped to watch a frog hop across the road. Once their amphibious pal made it safely to the other side, G’s buddy said, “Come on, let’s go!” and grabbed G by the hand. The two of them raced off together.
It was such a joy to watch G be a regular kid at camp. He received a lot of support. The head of the Gan ran a very structured program, and created a wonderful environment for all the kids. The camp provided the Gan with an additional staff person to be a support for G. The staffer, A, was a young man in his mid-twenties whom we had met several times at Tikvah Shabbatons. It was a great match, and A quickly became one of G’s favorite people in camp.
Now, back in the real world, G will spend the rest of the summer the way he’s spent the last few summers. Extended School Year services (a “camp” offered by the school district where he will continue to work on his social skills and pragmatic language), some behavioral therapy at home, a week of social skills camp, one week of science camp (which might be good, but also might be disastrous) and a lot of “camp mom”. It’s possible that he’ll enjoy an activity or make a friend. But I don’t anticipate seeing the kind of head to toe joy I witnessed these last few weeks at camp.