More Than Dirty Clothes

  • One large duffel bag. Six to eight towels, bath AND beach. A shoe bag, a tutu and a feather boa. The list goes on and the end result is a car filled with stuff. You can plan and prepare, fold and refold, and still not feel entirely ready as you press down on the gas pedal, pull away from the comfort of home, and head to the perfect little town of Pembroke where you’ll leave your daughters, your most prized possession, in the hands of her new summer family. There’s the logistical, detail-related piece of preparing for camp. Making sure your camper has the correct number of pajama pants to get them through four rainy days and enough batteries to power their fans through the humid nights. It’s a delicate balance between making sure your camper (or you) feel prepared and adequately packed for an experience away from moms and dads, and not sending too much clutter, or literal baggage, to distract your camper from the ultimate goal of camp. We lose a lot at camp, but what we find, and what your campers come home with is truly invaluable.

    We find our support systems. At home, our campers know they’ll be loved and supported, it’s the job of their parents to provide that, but when you come to camp, and you discover other adults that love and cherish and see that same good in you, it speaks volumes. There is something so powerful for a kid’s development when they can connect and bond with adults that can care and love for them somewhere other than home. It builds confidence, fosters independence and is at the core of why our girls are so successful in this environment. The look on Dahlia’s face when I told her she could come find me anytime she needed a hug confirmed this. This “aha” moment of realizing you’ve got people at home AND at camp that adore you. We tell our campers all the time to “lean into” the experience, and the outcome is always magical.

    We find our voice. Literally and figuratively, Pembroke is the place where you realize all the good stuff you’ve got inside you. From listening to Leah belt it out during JAF practice, to watching Lexie compose her poem on the whiteboard outside of the HC bunk on the last day of First Session. Watching Lilah yell and scream to support her newcomb team during general athletics. Y’Rush campers multi-tasking as they assisted in the running of the Pembroke Swim Meet and cheered at the top of their lungs for all of the camps participating. Bunk 2A has found their voice together in support of Diana, who’s first language is Russian, as they’ve embraced and developed their own bunk language.

    We find our place. In our bunk, in our activities, at our mixed table. There are so many opportunities to connect to these “micro” communities, so many places and people to make you feel like you belong. I watched seasoned Bunk 15ers show new campers around as they decided where to drop the “seed bombs” they made in Nature class. Bunks 11 and 9AB really making their space their own with indoor four-square courts handmade with a little painter’s tape! This place is sacred, every inch, every corner and every wood-paneled bunk that lines the horseshoe.

    We find our people. Elexa took pride in introducing Eliza as her “prospective camper buddy from last year” and exclaiming “I did something right! She’s back at camp this year!”. I found my people, Bunk 5, waiting at the Dining Hall in the pouring rain, and happily escorted them dryly to their next period. Sunday was a mix of emotions as we said goodbye to our First Session “people”. There’s that delicate balance of mourning the familiar routine and friends and, at the same time, the excitement to welcome new campers becomes palpable. Visiting Day was a great chance to spend time with our families and a great launching point to jump right back in with our second family.  I’m always blown away at the ease of which our Second Session campers join in and immediately find their place in their bunks, mixed tables and activities and the excitement begins again.

    And now, less than one week in, the feathers from that boa are scattered around the Pine Grove from Wednesday’s BBQ dress up and those towels, like beloved memories, are hung on the lines to dry in that perfect summer sun. So, as you unpack a summer’s worth of dirty socks and old tennis shoes in August, think about the steps those shoes took. After the laundry is washed, the towels put away and the art projects displayed on the mantel, the one thing that you won’t see in their trunks is their personal growth. You will notice it over time. Your eight-year-old may ask you for salad bar for dinner, they might call a friend in another state without being prompted, they will brush their teeth without being asked multiple times, and they might even clear their own plates. These priceless gifts make all of your worries, trips to Target, and labeling worth it. Your kids are bringing home so much more than just dirty clothes!

    Shabbat shalom from Camp Pembroke,


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