Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:
Last Friday night I tied three ties. That may not seem startling to you,
but for a person who is accustomed to wearing jeans, gym shoes, and golf
shirts, tying even one tie can be an event.
The first tie that I tied on Friday was, of course, around my own neck. In
reality, it isn't unusual for me to put on a tie on Friday night, as I am
usually attending services at one of our synagogues in the region. Last Friday
I traveled to Louisville for a congregational dinner, camp service, and camp
presentation during the Oneg. After twenty years of traveling to promote camp
in our synagogues, I am getting quite good at tying the required neck knot. It
often strikes me as kind of ironic, the formality of dress necessary for the
settings in which I speak about the creativity and informality of camp. The
necktie seems to exemplify the irony to me. But I'm not complaining. I am
actually happy that I remembered to retrieve my favorite tie from my son
Michael before he went off to college, so that I can wear it on occasion.
During the football season I proudly wear my blue and orange Bears tie. But I
I arrived at The Temple in Louisville a short time before the dinner began.
One of our camp board members (she had arranged the entire camp night at the
temple) was scurrying about making final preparations, and in her haste had not
had the time to help her four-year-old son put on his tie. She asked me to do
the honors. At the time the boy was busy racing across the floor and then
dropping to his knees to see how far he could slide. He was quite good at this
maneuver. But he did willingly come over to me for the harnessing procedure.
It is not easy to tie someone else's tie. I had the boy turn around so that
his back was to me and completed the procedure by leaning over his shoulder and
reaching around him. He was small, so it wasn't too hard. When he looked down
and saw the tie he smiled a very grown-up type smile and went on his way. It
took about 45 seconds for him to return to his boyhood self, running, sliding ,
and cavorting. But I was struck by the memory of tying my sons' ties as they
were growing up. It was a definite nostalgic flashback. I liked the feel of
I spoke with many of the people as they arrived for the dinner. An older
couple approached me to talk. The man, it turned out, had been a scoutmaster
for many years and wanted to compare camp notes. He and his wife told me of
their two sons and how involved they had all been in scouting, etc. Their
youngest is two years older than me. Then, just as I was about to turn away to
speak to someone else, the woman told me that her husband had had a stroke
recently and had forgotten how to tie his tie. He was embarrassed to ask for
help, but she thought that one camp director wouldn't mind helping another. He
and I went to the Men's room. For the second time that evening I reached over
someone's shoulder and made the appropriate loops and folds to complete the
knot. The bathroom mirror reflected a grateful but sad expression in his
eyes. For a moment I was his son. He was grateful that I had helped him and
sad that he needed my help for such a simple task. I told him that we were
members of a special club, camp directors, and that our club members always
helped each other out. I told him that he looked fine and wished him a Shabbat
Shalom. He blessed me with a warm smile and handshake.
So, Friday night I tied three ties; one for myself, one for my children, and
one for my father. That's the way I'll remember it.