I breathe in and realize that the tension has vanished, gone with the warm night breeze and the memories
he campgrounds are still. The gazebo is empty, main office locked, and through the high windows I look into the dining room, dark and yawning, huge in the silence.
The camp is sleeping and I should sleep too, grab the scant hours of radio silence while I can, but I can’t. My mind is roiling, racing; so many problems, so much to do. Tomorrow’s entertainer backed out, two of the lifeguards are down with the flu, complicated politics in Bunk 14. Two counselors want to switch divisions and the specialty staff ran out of supplies. All day I listened and talked and reassured and promised and…
Night falls, camp sleeps, and I lean back in an empty golf cart and smell cut grass and gasoline. The people, the problems, the promises, a to-do list that seems to stretch to the midnight sky.
There are problems that are bigger than I am, more than a matter of a few phone calls, a larger budget, an emergency trip to the nearest supermarket. I’m not a magician, just a head counselor, but the job description is the same. I need a magic wand.
Darkness settles over me and I shiver. On a whim, I scrabble for a rusty nail to turn on the ignition, reverse across the quiet parking lot, and head up a path at random.
The golf cart is thunderous, but no one stirs. I drive and drive, aimless, circles. I check that the bunkhouse doors are closed securely and drive further, across the sports fields and into the wooded grounds at the far end of camp. I make three circuits of the track, picking up speed, reckless, hair whipping across my face at the bends. The path widens and narrows, gravel crunches beneath dusty wheels. I near the lake and the path on either side of me falls away; there’s just a narrow dirt bridge to pass over. The brakes screech as I slow and one of the front wheels buckles and I have a sudden, mortifying vision of having to radio for help at 3:30 a.m.
The golf cart rights itself. I’m back on the track, my breathing slows. The world is dark but it suddenly seems starkly beautiful, and I notice that the sky may be far away but the stars are close and bright.
Maybe, I think, I don’t need to work so hard to solve impossible problems. Maybe they’re just meant to be until they aren’t. Obstacles are part of the territory, here to bypass or ride over or narrowly squeak through, until you look back vaguely and think, So what happened? What did we do?
There were problems last year too, and the year before, and there must have been problems even when I wasn’t head staff, even when I was a junior counselor cheekily perched on the back of a head staff golf cart, begging for a hitch. Sneaking into the kitchen for extra dessert. Breaking into an empty bunkhouse with a couple of friends to use the (empty! hot!) showers and the chipped, square mirrors to do our hair for Shabbos, in peace and quiet.
I drive on and the years fall away.
The gazebo is a shell of memory, but when I pass it I can hear echoes: theme song booming from giant speakers, counselors and campers doing the moves on repeat, standing in a messy line and tripping over my feet when everyone turns and I’ve lost track of the sequence.
I near the canteen and my taste buds wake up: melting chocolate cones and cans of Coke and huge bags of popcorn that you think you’re never gonna finish until suddenly the bag is empty and you’re scrambling for the salty crumbs.
I breathe in and realize that the tension has vanished, gone with the warm night breeze and the memories.
Because summer, and camp, remind me that time goes on. That months and years pass and the seasons converge and merge and then pass and suddenly, autumn is summer again.
And you’re back, but you’ve changed, spiraled higher so you see the same grounds, same bunkhouses, same dirt paths and creaky doors with new eyes, because some things change, you change, but up in the country somewhere along Route 17, some things are timeless.
I execute a hairpin turn and slide the golf cart into its parking space, between the maintenance guy’s cart and the one-that-doesn’t-start. And my phone is silent and the problems are still there, somewhere, waiting patiently for sunrise so they can explode into the open again and overwhelm me.
But for one moment in the breaking dawn, I switch off the engine, let go of the steering wheel, and I am calm.
Rochel Samet is a wife, mother, and writer in Jerusalem, and is lucky enough to spend her summers in one of the happiest places on earth.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 868)
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