Hello Muddah, hello Fadduh,
Here I am at Camp Grenada
Camp is very entertaining
and they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining.
I went hiking with Joe Spivy
He developed poison ivy
You remember Leonard Skinner
He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner.
All the counselors hate the waiters
And the lake has alligators
And the head coach wants no sissies
So he reads to us from something called Ulysses.
- Allen Sherman, “A Letter from Camp”
Growing up in Manhattan, I didn't need to drive. But after three years of living in Michigan, where buses and subways were no longer at my doorstep, it was time to learn. I passed my driver's test (because it didn't require me to parallel park), and bought a used red-and-white Plymouth Reliant K. My parents quickly insured my purchase with something they knew I would need to support my fledgling skill set - a AAA membership.
This past December, I wrote my (secular) New Year's Resolution article for the Jewish Week called, "Live Like a Movie Star.". In that article, I made a commitment - in print - that I would stop thinking about myself as a coach who just happens to write a column of careless musings, and to start regarding myself as a real writer.
Ten years ago, I was the overwhelmed, under-rested, barely-bathed mother of newborn twins. Getting out of bed was a daily challenge, staying awake past 6 pm was even harder. So it was a rare and much-needed treat when my friend Wendy and my cousin Amy came over for dinner and a night of gabbing and girl-talk.
"You must be exhausted," Wendy clucked with compassion.
"I'm fine." I lied.
"How are you getting through the days?" Amy asked, her voice filled with rachmanos.
When my older brother Scott was a senior in college, he wrote home about the new woman he was dating. Three pieces of information stuck out: 1) she had the same first name as his sister (that's me), 2) she was from Minnesota (where's that?) and 3) she was Jewish. While many Jewish families would have regarded that third detail as cause for either relief or celebration, our family took it as evidence that his new girlfriend was in a cult, and would certainly try to get my brother to drink the (kosher) Kool-Aid.
While I was secretly hoping that Kate and William might need a keynote speaker for their big day, I was not surprised that my invitation to the royal wedding never arrived. I can also say that, as a cheerful and frequent host of many Shabbat dinners, I am far from astounded when my family gets invited out to usher in the Sabbath around someone else's dining room table.
It was supposed to be one of those mother-son experiences that memories are made of.
I was invited to be the keynote speaker for a fundraising event at a midwestern Jewish Federation, and, since it was within driving distance of my alma mater, The University of Michigan --Ann Arbor, I decided to bring my then-seven year old son Jacob. While I got excited to show him where I had gone to class and bought my books and partied hard (well, maybe I'd skip that part), I discovered what was to be the icing on the cake as soon as we got to JFK airport: We'd been upgraded to First Class.
Imagine driving your kids to drop them off for a month of sleep-away camp. Imagine that the energy in the car is a combination of anxiety and excitement, anticipation and celebration. These are the times that normal parents bring up benign conversational topics to pass the time, such as “do you think you’ll be in the same bunk as Sammy again?” or “Remember to stay out of the poison oak on the overnight.” Nothing deep. Just idle chatter.
My ten-year old daughter Sophie paid homage to my recent birthday with the best-worst birthday toast I could imagine: “Happy Birthday to the world’s greatest mom – and to the world’s best grandma one day!”
Young Families, Singles Flocking to Upper East Side; ‘The Memory Is In Their Taste Buds’: The Lure of Sephardic Food; Safra Synagogue Rabbi’s Growing Empire; Sephardic And Egalitarian at B’nai Jeshurun; Giving Voice to Sephardic Music.