The Lasts That Last

  • Six years ago I discovered my now favorite quote, and it’s been saved in my phone ever since. The first time I read it, I knew that it perfectly summed up the feeling I always had a few days before each summer at camp. There was SO much to look forward to, seven weeks ahead of what seemed like a limitless number of late nights with the best people in the world.

    “Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”

    For me, and for so many of our campers, that feeling of a full summer of adventure ahead of you is a comfort, and the consistency we all crave in our crazy, busy, chaotic lives. And yet, in the blink of an eye, we’re here. Just four days left. We are tired and sick and moving a little bit slower than we did back in July, but the one thing that overrides the exhaustion is the absolute dread that Wednesday brings, and I don’t think there’s a Winnie the Pooh quote to make any of it feel better. We spend our whole year counting down for those butterflies as you turn off of Rt. 111, that run and jump hug with an old friend, and that first night settling into sleep to the sound of slamming screen doors. While my summers look a little bit different than they once did, and my focus and responsibilities have shifted, the anticipation of each summer has only intensified.

    It’s the firsts of every summer that we wish away the year for and the lasts that we pray will never come. This past week, we’ve spent our time savoring every last moment. From Siagel Social dance parties, Bunk 8 movie nights at Efraim’s house, Kona Ice truck visits, omelet bar mornings, campfire nights and a little stargazing sprinkled in, this week has been filled with amazing memories and quality time with quality people.

    My quality time with our JAF participants was one of my top 3 highlights from the summer. I felt incredibly lucky, and even more proud, to be a part of our trip to Camp Tevya for the Jewish Arts Festival performance on Sunday. I’ve watched five other performances during my years here, but there was something so different about this group. These kids were in Bunks 1 & 9 when I first started at CTN. I have watched them grow up, make friends, make mistakes and fall in love with camp, and now I had the opportunity to watch them stand in front of 400 Tevya campers and staff and visitors from six other camps, step out of their comfort zones and proudly represent their camp. They were absolutely incredible, and as the rest of the audience cheered for their performance, I was cheering for them for so many other reasons. In the moment, I could not have been prouder of the investment of time, commitment to learning every dance move, and dedication to one another but, big picture, I could not have been more proud of the people they had become.

    They stood on that stage Sunday night not knowing that just one day later, they would be back in the limelight leading all of camp in three days of intense competition, spirit and teamwork. Color War broke Monday morning with an incredible paint and rhythm-filled drumline finished off with confetti rockets and a whole lot of screaming and anticipation. Three days packed with a variety of athletic, artistic and musical competition, every camper is able to find their niche and their own way of contributing to their team. For some kids, that means sharing their artistic vision for their teams Bannerfest, while others demonstrate their athletic prowess during Skydome and their paddling excellence in Aquadome. Meals were themed, and No Eye Contact Lunch and Third Person Dinner were the perfect opportunity to earn points for your team. No matter what role you filled, no matter what bunk you’re in or how many years you’ve been at camp, the one activity that every.single.camper. gets completely engaged in is Gold Rush. Somehow, I had managed to miss it for my first few years, but two summers ago I witnessed what is quite possibly, the best two hours of my summers now. I have never seen all of camp, kids and staff, so wildly invested and independently engaged in an activity for such an extensive period of time. There is no clumping of campers, no sitting or lounging around. Just two hours of running, hiding and scheming to get some rocks into a trashcan. The same kids who you have to peel off of their devices and limit their screen time, spent two hours, soaking wet and covered in mud, running around putting rocks in a trashcan. I mean, where else does that happen? I watched boys and girls of different ages distract staff for one another so their teammates could get a clear shot back to the flagpole without getting sprayed and sent to jail. I laughed as two Olot campers debated over whether the rock in question was part of Gold Rush or just one of the many Kindness Rocks scattered around camp. I loved every minute watching our campers and staff, take a step back and just be dirty, crazy kids running around with rocks.

    Puzzlefest was a close call, the Apache Relay was dominated by Negev and Galil’s spirit was unparalleled. It all came down to Songfest on Wednesday night and despite a strong effort from both teams, Galil came away with the W. I love the intensity of Color War, always have and always will, but each summer I look forward to the moments after the winner is announced. It’s like a switch is flipped and nothing happened, and all you feel is this sort of sense of relief as our community joins back together. We circle up around the gym, alternating green and yellow, crossing our right hand over our left, and together we sing the Alma Mater before heading back for some MUCH needed sleep…and for some of our Bunk 8 and 18ers, their first showers in three days (they say it’s a Color War tradition, I say it’s gross). Lots of hugs, a few tears, and countless memories, we have now officially shifted our focus to the last week.

    As we enter into these final days, and into our last Shabbat of the summer, things happen at a very different pace – a bit slower and with a bit more intention. It’s no secret that our time here is very close to its end, and it is so obvious that our campers, whether they notice it or not, are taking it all in. So, as we stand together for one last Shabbat, we squeeze our friends a little bit tighter, we walk a little bit slower, and we tuck away those sacred memories and relish in our last moments of summer 2017.  It’s been a good one, maybe even the best yet, and now I’m officially signing off, ready to enjoy my last days with your incredible kids. Thanks for reading, thanks for joining in on our adventure and, once again, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for giving us the greatest gift we could ask for, the opportunity to spend our summers with your kids.

    Shabbat shalom, and see you on Wednesday.

    With so much gratitude,


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