I can honestly say that camp has shaped every aspect of my life. It was my happy place as a camper, which ultimately led to me transferring colleges: to be near my camp friends. As an adult, my experiences at Jacobs Camp enriched my career as a Jewish educator; I used those connections to relate back to in my first grade classroom. I have shared camp memories or sung camp songs to all three of my kids since the day each one was born. With each child, I have been so excited for them to get to experience the Jacobs magic when they are old enough. We even had the camp connection of using a baby sitter that ALSO went to Jacobs – and we are out of region! And thanks to her, I learned about what would later become the best night of our daughter’s life to date – Kochavim. I always knew we would send her to camp, and since my husband didn’t feel connected to the camp he went to for two summers, I didn’t have to twist his arm about sending our kids to HSJ (even though we live in Texas). I just didn’t realize until that summer day before Sophie started kindergarten, that her camp experience could start sooner than Olim. So from that moment on, Sophie told everyone she could about Jacobs.
You may be asking yourself why on earth we would drive to Houston for one night of camp. I wish I could say my husband didn’t wonder the same! But, why wouldn’t we? Is it far for one night? Yes. Would she get to see where she would be spending her future summers? Yes. Would she meet new friends? Yes. Would she get to sample some of the activities offered to the campers? Yes. Would she have the time of her life? YES! Signing her up for Kochavim was a no brainer. So one month into the kindergarten year, she was signed up! I know I had tears on my face when I got the email she was accepted.
Months went by and we talked all about camp. I shared photos from camp (my own, posted by friends, or HSJ’s social media posts). If we ran into someone I knew from camp, I would let her know I met them at Jacobs. If we were singing a camp song, I would let her know that she, too, would sing it at camp, and on and on. I showed her pictures of kids that she would be with that night, and introduced her to one of my camp friend’s daughters on a visit to Memphis (my hometown). All these things started building her excitement.
Before I knew it, we were packing her bag and preparing for her one night “taste” of camp. She was so excited as we drove there, and I had the exact same excitement of returning to camp as I did when I was a child. We arrived, got her checked in, walked through the JPAC and looked out at the lake. I pointed to cabins that I lived in as a counselor and shared about Shabbat in that exact room when it was the museum. I blinked my eyes, and my shy girl was running around with friends and didn’t look back. She ran over for one last hug, and off she went. Just like that, her camp experience (and my jealousy) began!
That evening many of the Kochavim families met up in Jackson. How awesome that we got to meet families who our kids would spend their summers with. Some had older kids who were campers, some were first time families to Jacobs, and some were like us, one or both parents grew up at camp. That was such a unique experience to share in – talk about who we were, what brought us to camp, and of course, what did we think our kids were doing at that exact moment (many had the agenda in hand!).
The next morning, we all returned for the camp tour, snacks and a Q & A session with Anna, and then on to lunch (chicken patty day – the best!) with our campers! I will never forget the smile on Sophie’s face when we joined them in the dining hall, nor will I forget the smiles I saw in the pictures posted on the portal. As much as I wanted to hear ALL about the night, I got all I needed – the million dollar smile. After lunch and a slideshow, along with meeting some of her new friends, we were on our way…tears down her face as we drove out of the gate, just as I did as a child. We didn’t have to ask if she had fun or wanted to come back, she told us right away she could not wait until Olim! We got a quick synopsis of the night, and just like that, she was asleep in the backseat.
Sophie talked about camp nonstop for the following days, and still does! Kochavim was such a great way to introduce her to what was to come. When we talk about Olim 2020, she can visualize it. She knows which activities she wants to do again (the lake! Never thought there would be a day when my child wanted to do activities in a lake, much less Lake Gary!), and which new ones she wants to try. “I know I am going to miss you when I am gone for Olim, but I know I am going to have so much fun.” Kochavim not only let her dip her toes into camp activities, it gave her the confidence to know she is independent and will be ok without us right there. I firmly believe that one night experience laid the foundation that will carry her through this summer and all the summers to come.
And as for me, well…I will miss her dearly but know she will be having the time of her life. One of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me was the gift of summer camp. I feel so fortunate that we can give Sophie, and her brother and sister, the same experience. I can’t wait to hear her stories and compare them to some of mine! One morning in the fall she woke up and described the dream she had to me, “Mommy, I had a dream I got to go to Jacobs Camp for 10 days and it was the BEST TIME EVER!” How cool is it to tell her that dream gets to come true this summer?
Edie E. is so excited for her daughter, Sophie to experience the magic of Jacobs Camp! Sophie is enrolled for Olim this summer.