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Malka Katzman

I am the Girl Who Has Everything in Camp — from existential items like safety pins to fun stuff like bats and balls and Sudoku booklets

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

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Ask me about my dream summer plans, and I’ll come up with plenty: a trip to Europe, hikes in the woods, sleeping in a tent, daily trips to the ice cream store (with unlimited fudge). But there are dreams of other kinds, and I was yet to learn that. 

Summer fever is in full swing, and as Mrs. Levine drones on about the difference between a shva na and shva nach, I am just itching to bolt out of my seat and tan in the sunshine. Then comes hashkafah class, and I listen — sort of. I hear one sentence, then tune out for the next, then catch another few words. I close my notebook with relief when the bell rings, but there is something niggling in my brain, like there is something I desperately want to remember. Mrs. Berman just said something that sparked my interest, touched a lost dream, but now it is elusive again. 

At night I lie in bed, dreaming again of summer. All my dreams are just dreams, but I am happy to indulge them anyway. I am going to good ol’ sleepaway camp, and maybe we’ll venture into the woods behind our bunkhouse during the day (and not night) for a few brave moments, but nothing more adventurous will be on the agenda. Again, I sense that urgent buzz in my brain: There is something I want to do this summer, something I want to remember. What is it? 

As the last day of school draws near, my anticipation mounts, and my lists grow, too. Every day I add another item to my camp list. I am the Girl Who Has Everything in Camp — from existential items like safety pins to fun stuff like bats and balls and Sudoku booklets.

Camp day. My luggage is all ready. I just have to pack my siddur and Tehillim into my knapsack, and I am all set. I pull my favorite lavender Tehillim from the bookcase and then stand still. Suddenly I remember. It is here that I want something. Mrs. Berman said that mussar should be a Yid’s daily vitamin, and there are so many mussar seforim with translations that are easy to learn. Something is pulling me to make a dream come true, to do something worthwhile this summer. 

My hands work quickly, sifting through the seforim and books. I pull out a popular mussar sefer with English translation, and put it into my suitcase. I pull the zipper closed and now I feel truly ready to go. 

 

Chaya is a good friend: dependable, loyal, and so kind and well-meaning it is sometimes guilt inducing to be near her. But she’d make a perfect partner for mussar learning in the summer. I make sure to sit near her on the bus and I tell her about my idea. We agree on a time and place — after supper on the steps behind Chaya’s bunkhouse — and now I relax, ready to have some fun. 

We start on the very first night of camp, covering half the introduction. That night I sleep with this fullness in my stomach… or is it my brain? And it’s not because of the scrumptious supper of pizza and fries. This is the real definition of satisfaction, I decide. 

Session two is even better, and on the morning of day three I am already looking forward to our little rendezvous after supper. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 668)

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