Monday, June 29, 2009

And So It Begins...

The Rosmarin's Summer of 2009 officially began today with the opening of Rosmarin's Day Camp. Though many of us have been trudging up to our bungalows for the weekend since Memorial Day -- and a devoted handful actually moved in over the past two weeks -- the start of summer camp signals the real beginning of the season for local folks and urban refugees alike.

This is our 15th summer as seasonal residents of this Catskills paradise, a miniature lifetime in which our family went from four to five people, a deft sleight of hand in which the 11-year-old camper became a writer in Berlin, his 7-year-old sister a rising junior at Goucher College in Baltimore and the newborn baby a counselor-in-training, working in the cooking shack.

Today dawned cold and uncertain. This June has been an excursion into surreality, an unsettling season out of sequence that nevertheless is struggling to end on a positive note. After the brilliant sunshine of the past day, there was the heart-sinking possibility that the weather would revert back.

Yet, valiant Monday conquered the weather gremlin, allowing counselors, campers and their parents to experience a classic hot and sun-drenched First Day of Camp.

By all accounts, it was perfect.

"How was camp?" I shouted up to the little Russian girls who were having dinner with their babysitter when I returned home from Manhattan.

"Great!" they sang in a chorus.

"How was camp?" I texted Little Babe at 4:45, minutes after the campers went home.

"Awesome!" he wrote back.

Walking from parked car to bungalow, hauling heavy bags filled with clothes and food from THE CITY, fifteen years' worth of perfect First Days of Camp merged into a collage of sunburnt cheeks, the jumble of running limbs, damp hair, wide smiles, friends, frozen confections, wet towels, water-sloshed shoes, tie-dyed t-shirts, eager plans, art projects, missing teeth, bathing suits slung over railings, scraped knees and elbows, permission slips that needed my signature.

When I first discovered this place, the young chef was a tadpole in my swollen belly.

When I first found this place, September 11th was just a date after the start of the school year, Bernie was a name associated with nice guys, high school boys weren't plotting to massacre their classmates, videos of killings and decapitations didn't flood the Internet, the Internet was in its infancy and the 21st century was an exotic destination that everyone was about to visit.

On the night of the First Day of Camp, I am sitting alone, thinking and writing; soothed by a rare peace borne of an ever rarer circumstance -- solitude.

In the back room, Little Babe slumbers, utterly exhausted by his full day of work, 90-minute swim and evening visit from his good friend, Morry. In the city, HOBB and Middle Babe share the urban bungalow with Alfie and Nala the Pomeranians, whom we dispatched to the city for a few days to reduce the level of (new, sudden and disturbing) hostility we're getting from a few of our neighbors.

Big Babe is out of the country, traveling in Turkey this week. Called to Manhattan for a compact day of meetings beginning at 9 this morning, I returned home in the evening, bearing steaks from Fairway and bags filled with the summer clothes Little Babe forgot to bring when he drove up this past Friday with HOBB.

The solitude that surrounds me is blissful. I sit on the edge of my bed with my computer on the folding table, unshowered after a late-night trip to the local gym. I ponder a return trip to the gym in the morning, still unshowered. The thought appeals to me. Why not? Don't Americans wash themselves far too often for the health of their skin and hair? And isn't it silly to wash now when I will sweat again early in the morning?

The quiet outside my cabin has a sound, like a white noise machine. I note, as I always do during the summer, how time expands when quiet prevails.

At this moment, I believe everything possible -- the books and articles I wish to write, the places I want to see, the adventures I yearn to have, the soul companionship I seek, the beautiful and balanced life I long to lead.

In one hour, the First Day of Camp will draw to an end. This moment is bittersweet, like the final hour of Shabbat or a birthday or Yom Kippur.

I want to live forever in the land of First Days of Camp, that precious, precarious moment when summer stretches before you, gleaming, endless and illusory, like the Yellow Brick Road.

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