I planned on getting so much done while the kids were away at camp. There was the thought of a holiday getaway, DIY house projects and loads of work to do on my thesis. Summer-time strolls, movies and exploring new restaurants were also on my to do list. Instead, to our horror, our primary social activity turns out to be attending funerals and shiva houses on this “Summer of our Israeli soldiers”.
When we aren’t taxing the last reservoirs of tissue supplies – hopping from one house of mourning to the next, my husband and I pretend to go about the business of normal life; a half-hearted attempt at house work, visits to the dentist (the bomb shelter is just down the hall) and fielding phone calls and FB messages from concerned friends abroad with children visiting Israel. We do our best to allay the fears of family and friends, and host the loveliest young couple whose (still) repeated attempts to book a flight home to the States falls through. We’ve even gained a Lone Soldier who has moved in with us. But oh how the news these past weeks makes our collective hearts stand still; the reverberations of the Iron Dome punctuating our thoughts and normalcy relegated to ten minute card games in bomb shelters because who would waste time playing games otherwise when our boys are in Gaza?
Thank G-d for summer camp. Three of my children are fortunate to have experienced a break from our national anxieties. Two of my sons were away in the North. One daughter was in camp in the South. When we packed their suitcases, making sure they didn’t forget sunscreen, mosquito repellant and other essentials under the Israeli sun, we never imagined they would practice skills such as running to bomb shelters in under five seconds.
Last week we had a go at normalcy. On a beautiful Friday morning, we drove up North for parent visiting day at camp. It was the break that we parents in the ‘real world’ needed even more than the kids. Still, it wasn’t exactly your usual parents visiting day though the atmosphere was upbeat and festive and the music was pumping . After the initial greetings and hugs, I asked to see the boys’ rooms and to gauge their proximity to the bomb shelters.
Me: So you guys look like you’re having a great time. How were the sirens?”
Younger son: “Yeah, when the first siren sounded, we got really scared. But now we know what to do. I can run to it in 45 seconds.”
Older son: “The problem is that we have to wait for all the campers to be in the room before our counselor lets us run to the shelter. Then they don’t even let us run, we’ve got to walk fast.
Me: “Why are your feet all cut up ? ”
Older son: “Cuz one of those times I had no time to put on shoes and it’s a long way for me to get to the bomb shelter and there are tons of small rocks along the way.”
Younger son: “Yeah, the boys’ rooms are much further away than the girls’ to the shelters. They think the girls are more important.”
Me: “Were the kids scared?”
Younger son: “Yeah, at the beginning and some kids went home.”
Younger son’s counselor: “But the kids did great. They all sang Am Yisrael Chai and by the second siren, some of the boys remembered to run with their guitars so we even had music there.”
Me: “What if some kids sleep through the siren?”
Younger son: “That’s not going to happen because a counselor sleeps in the room with us since the first siren and he wakes us up very, very quickly.”
Me: “So what are you going to do so that you don’t cut your feet up like
your brother did?”
Younger son: “Oh, that’s easy. I sleep with my shoes on!”
Me: So only a few kids started crying and went home?”
Older son: “Well it was mostly the girls that were crying after the first
Husband: “And I’m sure some kids went home because of their parents crying for them….”
That was a week ago. Today camp ended and the boys lug home dirty laundry galore, tanned physiques and very happy spirits. (Thank you, oh thank you camp counselors and directors who made camp so special even in a time of war. How grateful we parents are!) Then, shockingly, my youngest son announces that when there was rocket fire from the North, the campers had only five seconds to get to a shelter but that he had probably neglected to mention that fact during parent visiting day, in case I would make them come home. I processed his last sentence for a full minute. I hug him tighter and then step back to get a good look at him. In the week since I last saw him, he seems to have perfected that grundge look.
“Didn’t they have showers at camp?” I ask.
Younger son: “Sure they did but when one of the boys was in the shower when the siren sounded, he had to grab the first towel and it wasn’t even his and it wasn’t even clean. It was so embarrassing for him when he ran to the shelter like that so I decided I’d rather not take a shower after that.”
Yup. Summer camp is over. We’re on our own now. The kids want to know what fun activities and trips are on our schedule. I think that while both sons take showers, I’ll sort through their suitcases. I tell my youngest that in case of a siren, he has one and a half minutes to wrap his body in a towel and run to our shelter. Home sweet home. Today, I’ll have enough time to finish their laundry before The Nine Days commence tonight.
Here’s to normalcy….