Wonder and Awe

Life is complicated.  The carousel of time often feels like a gerbil’s exercise wheel.

Now that we are adults, we are mostly surrounded by colleagues, other parents, strangers (and just plain strange people), and family.  But not friends.  (And while colleagues, life partners and family can be friends, it isn’t ever simple.)  And, while we may love our lives, our families and our work, “carefree” does not describe any activity that comes to mind.

I think we all go through periods when our self-esteem and our souls feel depleted.  If you are lucky, there is a special place you can go (either in your mind or with your body) for solace, resolve and validation.  And, if you are really, really, lucky, this place is there even if you forget about it for decades.

I am one of these really, really, lucky people.  This weekend, 49 similarly blessed women and I returned to Camp Wingate (and still others were carried to Yarmouth in our hearts and memories).

Once I drove past the camp sign, I was transported to another place and time, where the days were about friendship, nature and self-discovery.

No one could pretend that 30 or more years had not passed and no one tried (ok, I lunged for a ball on the tennis court that will put me in traction, but I digress).

We came to see each other and breathe in the memories of summers as young girls and blossoming women.  And to visit our special place, where we could do anything and be anything.

It is amazing how good the air smelled (still).  How gross the bathrooms are (still).  How thin the mattresses are (still).  How stiff we were in the mornings (now, not then).  How early we wanted to go to sleep (wow, full circle, huh?) but powered through to maximize time with each other.  How the tennis courts got bigger (ok, we just can’t run down those balls any more) and Elisha’s Pond got smaller (“lake” was never really an appropriate word).  How wonderful to catch up while making friendship bracelets in the art studio or playing tennis with wood racquets.

And the comfort that still, among the many unanswered, and perhaps unanswerable, mysteries of the universe, are:

  • How did Pearl know and remember every bad (and good) thing each of us did each summer?
  • What were we thinking when we used to walk on the rail road tracks to L’il Peach to buy candy?  It was an active train route!!! 
  • How did Pearl survive our childhoods?   How did we?
  • And why did she keep letting us come back?

But wait, there are a few more:  Where else in the world could I be considered part of an awesome DJ trio for compiling and playing summer pop songs of the 1960s-80s?  Where else could I dance with childlike abandon with my childhood friends and without regard to any rhythmic sequence?  Where else could 40-, 50- and 60-year olds (promise me no one was in her 30s) could have endless hours of fun singing these songs into hair brushes and flashlights and strumming on tennis racquets?

Wingate helped lay the foundations that made us strong, kind, purposeful people.   At campfire, even the words to the Circle Game or Anticipation weren’t so scary because here we were, decades later, standing with the friends of our youth and feeling enveloped by love, and realizing that the goodbyes said decades ago don’t always have to be permanent.

My spirit is revived, my mind is peaceful, my soul is nourished and I left an even bigger piece of my heart at Camp Wingate.

Love, Family and the Wedding

Today, SOB (sister of blogger), Dad and I planned to have brunch and then go visit our cousins who sell antiques and are in New York City for a show on the antiques circuit.

SIDEBAR:  This is NOT Antiques Road Show, where a sculpture of a hand holding a bird is estimated to be more valuable than two birds in the bush.  How do I know my cousins are a notch above?  First, they travel the world over to buy the “stuff”; second, they charge a lot for the “stuff”; and third, they had to buy a whole other house to keep the “stuff”.  (One still maintains a day job.)

We told Dad to meet us at noon at a coffee shop not too far from his house (he likes to walk a little to get the blood flowing, which is essential at 91.5 years old).  Knowing that Dad arrives at least 30 minutes early, SOB and I decide to get there even earlier so we can have a pre-Dad schmooze.  We arrive at the coffee shop at 11:10am.  As we enter, we see Dad walking up.  (I am glad we said noon; if we had said 10am, Dad would have arrived at 11pm the night before.)

We had our usual conversations, punctuated by what was happening in the GOP primaries.   SOB and I are attuned to Dad’s rhythms.  We can tell from his body language that he is about to make a loud and slightly aggressive request for more coffee.  We also know that he did not hear the server say that a new pot was brewing and he would freshen up the coffee as soon as the pot was ready.  So as his hand is going up, SOB gently guided it back down to the table as I repeated (louder this time) that the coffee is coming.

SIDEBAR:  I attribute our gentle ballet to the skills we learned playing Capture the Egg on Sundays at camp.  For those of you unfamiliar with the “sport”, it is Capture the Flag but with eggs.  The winning team has the most number of intact eggs at the end of the game.  Some of the eggs are hard boiled, some are soft boiled and some are raw.  When your teammate runs into “enemy territory” and gets trapped, she then has to throw the egg to you as you stand on your side of the field.  You need to assume it is raw but hope it is hard boiled.  The trick in catching a raw egg is that you don’t catch it like a baseball; you catch it like a football — a cradle-like reception, as you gently reduce its spiral and speed.  And then, when the raw egg nevertheless splatters all over you, you call, “first in line for the shower!!!” Ok, I digress.

Dad is really steady at his age, but snow and ice is a challenge.  Of course, he wanted to take the bus.  I wanted to take a cab.  And I didn’t have enough on my Metrocard for a ride.

SIDEBAR:  It is true that my Metrocard was low; but it was convenient on a cold day on the icy streets of New York when I want my father to be in one piece for my wedding.

SOB said to Dad, “If we take a cab, we will save [Blogger] money on her Metrocard.”  We throw in test of logical thinking every now and again to assess Dad’s mental acuity.  He rolled his eyes, so we know he is ok.  SOB is non-confrontational, yet effective.  Strong work.

We arrive at the Antiques Show at the 26th Street Armory (in case anyone is wondering, I paid for a cab or two on this adventure).  Our cousins were there, as was another cousin.  The other cousin talked about his son’s engagement to an Iranian Muslim.  I noted that the successful marriages in our family were mostly mixed or same-sex marriages.  We all looked at each other.  Yep, we were all happy and either our partners were not Jewish or, if Jewish, the same sex.  So, I suggested to my cousin that we should all be relieved that his son was not marrying a Jew, for the sake of his future happiness.

One cousin asked about my upcoming nuptials.  Most of the details that are not quite settled relate to religious law.  Clearly, this makes no sense since a lesbian wedding is not sanctioned by tradition.   So why do we worry so much about complying with all of the rituals?  I tried to explain to this to our cousin, a non-Jew who married into the family, that Jews fearlessly go into absurd detail where others — except maybe the Vatican — don’t dare tread.  The mental gymnastics required to marry two women free and clear of prior entanglements are epic, as in Homer-like epic.  Too bad the Bard is not around to sing the tale of mighty warrior(ette)s slaying the various beasts, and overcoming the various challenges placed in their path by the gods on their way, so that they may seal their love and singular devotion (and have a little party).  All for a 20 minute ritual.  The things we do for tribal continuity.

Maybe PBS will do a mini-series.  The J-Word: Life Behind the Lesbian Chuppah.

These Arrrrrrrrre the “Good Ol’ Days”

Forgive me, Carly Simon, for the lack of harmony in the title.  I tried.

A camp friend tagged in an old photo on our camp’s website.  I was 8 years old.  About my son’s age.  It sent me time-traveling through memories.

I was a camper for 10 of the 11 summers, from 1971 to 1981.  Some of my earliest camp memories are Saturday night campfires where we sang and listened to stories under the night sky.  Only as I am older do I understand the importance of those campfires.  In my mind’s eye, we were sitting in the majesty of nature and day turned to night, singing together about friendship and emotions we were too young to understand (like those in Carly Simon’s Anticipation), and being part of a group as we each let our minds wander — sometimes to homesickness, sometimes just in the music, sometimes to how much we loved our friends sitting next to us.   Sugar-coating in part, but only in small part.

So, this morning I had to follow the link to see other pictures.  I found some crazy old pictures of people I hadn’t recalled in years.  And I got so excited that I shared the pictures with camp friends on FaceBook whom I thought could remember their names.  I wasn’t sure that my best friend for many of those years would remember so I didn’t send to her.  Now I think I will, it is less important that she remember the names, but it will evoke for her a (I hope, happy) time — in all its wonderment and angst — that we, those campers of the 1970s, think of as the “Good Ol’ Days”.  When we sang, “these arrrrrrree the good ol’ days”, we may not have known then what we know now:  they were indeed so.

Just a little aside about FaceBook:  Too many levels of contradictions and irony, among them, that it connects people who were friends in a time before fax machines and copiers (rexograph machines were it).  Another blog entry, perhaps.

I was looking at these photos and smiling.  Then my son switched off the cartoons and wanted to cuddle.  I paused my trip to the OLD good ol’ days to enjoy the here and now.   And I think, I am old enough to know — in real time, as this time with my son unfolds — that these moments, too, will be the Good Ol’ Days in short order.

I guess good ol’ days happen all the time.  We just have to remember to enjoy the moment and then, years later, relive the memory.

And stay right here
‘Cause these are the good old days

Everyone, click YouTube of Carly Simon from 1972 and sing along.