Home September 2012 Lazy Summer’s End

Lazy Summer’s End

I wasn’t oblivious to the onset of the looming school year, because, even in a vacation community like Eilat, kids with surfboards and scuba certificates apparently get educated; the malls in the resort town were filled with stands sporting backpacks, slide-rules and crayon sets.
But I wasn’t in “school mode.”  My husband, Ronney, and I work for an organization that supplies therapy services for hundreds of children with special needs as well as providing frequent respite to their families, and we were invited to join the fun at the annual SHALVA Summer Camp.  Ronney’s son-in-law is one of the directors of the organization, which meant that my stepdaughter and their five girls would also be with us.  Now I enjoy family time as much as the next gal, but the lure of such a carefree holiday was not without reservations:
“Come on,” he pleaded.  “Imagine!   Eight days of togetherness in a small, no-frills hotel on the Gulf of Aqaba, sweltering heat, a dining room packed with 180 kids and 150 counselors and volunteers, wheelchair ramps, separate swimming hours for men and women in a lukewarm pool, and I’ll be working a good part of the day.  Why are you so unsure???  After all, you keep saying that you need a vacation!”
Choosing my words carefully, I responded, “Only if we get to dress up one night and go out alone to Harrod’s for drinks; only if can go to the Dolphinarium.  And only if we can sneak off occasionally for a romantic dinner or private time on the beach.”
“You got it”, he intoned, gazing deeply into my baby blues.
The husband drove down in his van, schlepping sports equipment and support staff while I, pressed with work obligations, opted to fly down the next morning.  Sporty chap that he is, he called to say (obligatorily) that he missed me and that the hotel was clean but not so fancy.  Since I am also clean but not so fancy, I didn’t care.
One might think that typical vacationers would avoid the sauna city called Eilat during the blistering month of August but here, again, they’d be wrong.  The streets and rocky beaches were packed, and the aforementioned malls were dense with wall-to-wall people shopping for clothing that I couldn’t imagine them wearing since most were near-naked during daylight hours.  Perhaps the malls were so heavily populated, because the air conditioning offered the only relief to be had outside of the water.
The not-so-fancy hotel had originally been intended as a senior citizens residence, so I was grateful for the handrails next to the commode as well as in the shower.  And the extra wide doors – designed for disability scooters and wheelchairs – made for trouble-free entering and exiting on those rare occasions when we left the comfort of our air-conditioned boudoir.  The meals were not great, but we ate separately from the campers in a dining room that had been reserved for family members.  I must admit that although I’d known most of the organization’s administrative staffers for six years, this was the first time I’d spent holiday time with them, and it was just, plain fun.  Without the pressures of the office, laughter and leisure set the tone, and it was wonderful.  People I’d previously accused of being unrepentant stuffed-shirts set me straight by sporting 3-D glasses in the cinema, jumping off the sides of tour-boats and proving themselves to be competitive gamblers in a boardwalk casino.
Sabbath morning services were like no others I’d attended.  When I entered the makeshift synagogue in the regular dining room, it was clear that everyone was davening together.  Chairs that had originally been organized in neat rows in the women’s section were not haphazardly strewn about as the camp girls arranged their personal spaces according to a system that eluded me.
I found a seat among a group of 30-something women with Down syndrome, most of whom I knew.  Their prayer, devotion, clarity and kavanah (lofty focus) put my arrogant preconceived notions to shame.  Everyone was dressed in her Shabbos-best.  I felt grateful for the humble reminder that every Jewish soul is cut from the same Godly fabric.  The ability to perform algebraic posers or button one’s shirt without assistance has absolutely nothing to do with it.
While the dream of sneaking off with my husband was delicious in theory, theory has nothing to do with campfire songs, buddy systems and arts and crafts.  Thus, I gave up on the idea of cocktails in dim hotel lounges and finally decided to let my hair down and have fun.
I rode roller coasters, screamed and feared death as I dropped from cable-chairs suspended seven stories above the ground.  Sitting on an artificial lawn while sharing carnival snacks with absolutely terrific youngsters who possess a variety of physical and mental limitations has replaced any previous notions I may have held of what constitutes a perfect afternoon.  They sang songs and moon-walked after a sumptuous evening barbecue, screamed with unbridled delight at the hired magician and looked so fabulous in their tie-tied camp T-shirts.
When these kids laugh, they laugh hard and teach me about joy; unadulterated, unadorned zeal that comes from a holier place than I can imagine.
I left early as planned, because I hadn’t realized before embarking on the holiday that work could wait; my presence at every meeting and conference was not imperative; and that my husband, step-children and grandkids, co-workers and “non-typical” young people might prove more important than any completely flexible commitment.  We never made it to restaurants or cocktail lounges, the Dolphinarim.  And none of it mattered.
But I learned something.
I learned that while sunscreen protects my skin from becoming scorched in the brutal Sinai sun, soul-screen will ensure more meaningful summer – and forever – days.  And I learned that I’m truly looking forward to next year’s summer camp when I can put those well-learned lessons to the test.  And, in the process, achieve an ‘A” for effort!

Previous articleGreat Gift
Next articleMaking a Difference


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

The Comic Connection

Rosh Hashanah

Lessons Learned