Until last Saturday night, I did not know that you can make s’mores with Oreo cookies. Marshmallows, chocolate, creamy filling… What could be bad?
I learned this at an impromptu family camp, arranged by our friends Susan and David (yes, it’s a weird coincidence, having the same names), who had won the overnight at an auction/fundraiser for Camp Tamarack, 40 minutes north of home up I-75.
We gathered over Shabbat – ten adults and 17 children – for prayer and relaxation, boating, arts & crafts and reminiscing over our own experiences as campers and staff.
Here is what else I learned:
- The camp kitchen serves the same Friday night dinner all year round. My middle son, who attends Tamarack each summer, was thrilled to find his favorite apple turnovers and greasy noodles on the menu.
- Tile floors make an outstanding scooter surface. Several of the kids brought scooters from home, and would have zipped around in endless circles if we hadn’t occasionally asked for quiet in the lodge, our indoor gathering place.
- Four girls between the ages of 9 and 12 will grab the nearest empty cabin and declare it their sleepover spot. They will stay overnight alone, and feel very mature.
- It is possible for five moms to escape not once, but twice in the same day, for long walks that, while they are not long enough, provide brief but refreshing respite from needy children.
- The camp rabbi is a childcare genius. When the moms returned from our second walk (which took place after our wonderful counselors, Josh and Paul, had been released from duty), we found Rabbi Jason and his worthy assistant, Josh, supervising a scooter ramp made of three long tables, which reached from the fireplace to the middle of the lodge floor. Faced with 12 active children (other dads, where were you?), he knew he had to come up with something fast.
- If you want to celebrate havdalah with a bonfire, the rain will hold off long enough for everyone to sing, recite the blessings and eat at least two s’mores.
- It is possible for a nine-year old boy to navigate a kayak alone across the lake and back. He may emerge from the boat shivering and damp, but he will never forget the experience.
- The sound of a cabin door slamming is enough to take me back to the year I was 11 and learned to canoe on that same lake.
- Children who attend Jewish day school together can create a Shabbat morning service on the fly. They will sing and tell stories. Everyone will participate, from two-year-olds to middle schoolers. They will make their parents cry.
Most importantly, I learned that five families are enough to build a community. Twenty-seven people who regularly share holiday meals and synagogue services can create their own spiritual home – a home that is not bound by walls or institutions. A home that resides within their hearts.
I am truly blessed.