Three and a half weeks ago I dropped my youngest son off at a parking lot in New Jersey where a Leprechaun bus took him to sleepaway camp in upstate New York. Hours ago I retrieved said son who emerged from the bus, tanner, leaner and so bleary eyed he looked like he could barely stand, a product of having stayed up most of the night packing and bonding with his friends. At the moment, the prodigal son is wandering around the house touching things as if he’s never lived here. “Our house is so nice,” he says as he walks by me, “and our water is so clear” he adds. Then he goes upstairs to discover that his bed is “so soft and comfy.”
There has been a blog post circulating widely (over ten thousand hits) entitled, The Running of the Jews, which I posted on my Facebook page because I thought it was funny. http://www.luluandlattes.com/2013/07/08/the-running-of-the-jews-camp-visiting-day/ I actually thought the clips of the people running to see their children on visiting day were hilarious. Some of my friends took me to task because they thought the post made us (Jews) look “foolish” as a people. If running to see our children is what makes us look foolish then so be it. There are worse things. I thought it was amusing and a bit poignant that people who never moved were willing to risk life and limb to get to their kids a minute faster than someone else got to theirs. Another blogger responded to The Running of the Jews with a post called, This Is Why We Run and I thought that that post made some salient points. http://www.suburbabble.com/post/55229480632 Having participated in my share of visiting days I get why we run and why I got to the bus today at 10:30 when it was due in at 11:30. I’ve witnessed the child waiting on the porch of his bunk, eyes filled with tears craning his neck to scan every parent’s face with deep anxiety, as if there was a possibility his parents won’t show up. We all want to save our child even that five minutes of worry which must feel like a lifetime of anxiety to a child.
I think our stress over sleepaway camp is a microcosm of the world and the parent/child relationship at play within it. We push them with one hand and pull them with the other. Each time I put my kids on the bus I have a lump in my throat. The same tear thickened lump for some reason resurfaces in the instant that I see them as they get off the bus. While they’re away, we parents tell each other it’s good that they don’t write long letters but wouldn’t it be nice if they wrote a little bit more. I’ve seen it from both sides now. I’ve been the parent who got that letter, the one that said I’ll give you all my money and everything I own if you just let me come home and my heart broke and I’ve also been the parent whose child wrote, “No time to write.” You yearn for them but you also yearn for them to let you go. You want them to want you but just enough, not too much.
As I look down at my bronzed, sleeping son curled up so comfortably on the couch I think, “you don’t get it today but someday you will and, G-d willing, someday, you too, will run.”