It’s not everyone that can say “I’ve lived two lives at camp”. Well, I did. The first time in the 70’s, the second time in the 90’s. Two separate experiences and circumstances and each very important and life-changing in very different ways.
My first time at camp in 1976 would also mark the first time I was away from home longer than a weekend, first time separated from my younger brother and my first time attending any kind of camp whatsoever. I was encouraged by one of my best friends, Dawn, to go. She had gone the year before and figured out that UCI was the only camp for her and us. “You have to be there!” So, I won the camp scholarship at my synagogue, was dropped off at Pearson National airport with a handful of friends, our parents madly waving goodbye at the gate and tears flowing and off we flew to Indianapolis. That day would lead to change the course of my life. I was a quiet girl starting in first year Anaf, depending on Dawn to lead me through this first time at camp. As soon as I got off the bus she immediately introduced me to her friends from her first year and that was all it took. I fell in love. I found my voice, my strength and my Judaism at camp. This first summer in 1976 would lead me to become a CIT, Counselor, Dance and Tarboot specialist. Unbeknownst to me I would be singing along with and making Anaf Project t-shirts with my future husband, Ian, sometime during those years. Reform Judaism became central in my life. I made friends that have lasted to this day and would set my course to eventually live in Israel for three years, becoming fluent in Hebrew, majoring in Judaic studies and graduating with a teaching degree leading to 11 years in the Jewish school system in Toronto. Dayeinu.
Fast forward a decade. 1996. Single mom with two kids. Ron called me up and innocently asked “What do you do during the summers?”
“Not much, Ron. Why?”
“Would you like to come back to camp to be the administrator?”
“What’s an administrator?”
“I’ll explain it to you when I’m in Toronto.”
How could I turn it down? Ron was ready to fly me and the kids to camp, have them attend Camp K’ton, pay me in American $$ doing a job I had no experience in without an iota of understanding of what was expected.
So, I signed up for another kick at the can, this time with Toby (5) and Sharon (3) in tow. Their first time at camp. I still had no idea what an administrator did, but I did it well.
I stayed on as administrator for 5 more years, re-met the love of my life who happened to be travelling through and for some reason stopped by camp for a weekend visit. I introduced GUCI and a love of Judaism to my kids. They both continued on long after I hung up my GUCI shoes, each eventually becoming staff. As for me, Ron married me and Ian under a chupah in the Beit T’fillah in the summer of 2000, which started a fresh chapter of my life. Dayeinu.
Back in 1996 I remember someone asking me, with a somewhat snarky tone when he heard I was going back to camp in my 30’s, “Why on earth would you go back to camp?” “Because I can”.
And now, almost 18 years later I can look back at the 90’s and shake my head in wonder at how GUCI once again changed the course of my life.