Posted by: Liza Rosenberg | August 8, 2009

Occupation Day… Or “How I spent my summer vacation”

Butt. Poop. Budge. Intrigued? Amused? Slightly repulsed? Join the club. These were just three of the new words that the Little One learned to use with great gusto during his two weeks in an American day camp last month. Of course, it now seems like ages since we were in the US, but the reality is that we’ve been back for just over a week.

Truly, we had a month filled with escapades and exploits, not to mention what certainly seemed to be more than our fair share of encounters of the watery kind. We managed to squeeze in three days by the Delaware Water Gap with dear friends, rafting down the Delaware (and reveling in an onslaught of happy memories of long lost summers in a camp just up the road), sightseeing, eating, drinking (which seemed to happen with greater frequency than usual, though rarely in excess), and being quite merry. As much as I can be merry, that is…

We made it to two amusement parks. One was small and close to home, where I had the privilege to meet up with two old school friends (both of whom could probably make a fortune by selling their secrets for not aging) and their gorgeous children – a four year-old girl and a four-and-a-half year old boy. It was wonderful to spend time with these fabulous women, and the children really seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Until “the incident”, that is. Until a certain four-year-old girl (who will most certainly be keeping her parents perpetually on their toes, and who has been voted most likely to throw a house party when her parents are out of town, though hopefully not until she’s at least seven or so) tried to hug and kiss the Little One goodbye. Oh, the horror!

Imagine this scene, if you will – a beautiful little girl chasing an increasingly frantic Little One in circles around me, with the Little One calling out (in English, albeit with a slightly Israeli accent), “no Mommy! I don’t want!” I just know he’s going to regret this when he’s a hormonal sixteen year-old looking over my shoulder at pictures of her when she’s 15 and stunning, as she inevitably will be. Our girl was apparently not used to being rejected so firmly, as she later commented to her mother, “why wouldn’t that boy let me kiss him? If he had, he’d have seen that it was ok…” High-fiving the little boy goodbye in the parking lot appeared to be acceptable, however, and I was charmed to learn that he asked his mother before going to sleep later that evening if she thought that “his new friends missed him”. If he considers me to be one of his new friends, then the answer to that question would be a resounding “yes”.

And then there was day camp. Two action-packed, fun-filled weeks at the local JCC day camp, and while camp is probably deserving of its very own post, you’ll have to make due with a few of the highlights.

  • The Little One earned a certificate at the end of the session for having received a high number of stickers given out to campers for being nice. His counselors couldn’t get over how nice he was or how polite he was, always holding doors for everyone. Who’d have guessed that the Israeli kid would beat out the American kids in such a category?
  • Thanks to two weeks of swimming lessons and free swim sessions, the Little One is no longer afraid to go in the water by himself, and is quite happy to show anyone who’d care to watch that he can put his head under water. Hurrah! Now I just have to figure out why he doesn’t actually move when he swims…
  • As in most Jewish camps, the campers learn songs in Hebrew. In the Little One’s case, the songs were taught by an American, which resulted in him coming home one day singing songs in Hebrew with an American accent. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t persuade him that he wasn’t singing in English, but rather in American-accented Hebrew.
  • Despite being a Jewish-themed camp, approximately half the campers weren’t Jewish. My parents even noted at the open house prior to our arrival that there were several mothers in hijab. In practical terms, this meant that every morning, little Muslim children were starting off the day by singing Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, learning about Judaism and Israel, and picking up words and songs in Hebrew. And if you think that’s amusing, you’re really going to roll your eyes over…
  • Occupation Day. One day of the session was dedicated to campers talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Personally, I’d have gone for a less explosive term like “Profession Day”, but hey. That’s just me. I can still remember reading the weekly email update to see what special events were on the schedule when suddenly, there it was. Occupation Day. “Huh?” I read on. “Ohhhhhh. I get it now.” Only in America can you find Muslim campers in a Jewish day camp, singing Hatikvah and celebrating Occupation Day (alongside their Jewish friends, no less). Positively heartwarming, isn’t it?

Clearly, it’s very difficult to do justice to a month-long journey in one (rather long) blog post. Therefore, I’ve decided to spare you the blow-by-blow description and throw in yet another list of highlights, given that it worked so well above. For those of you in the know, feel free to add other choice vignettes to the comments.

  • For only the second time in all of our years living abroad, NRG and I managed to coordinate our trips “home”. Our sons – born only 17 days apart – bonded just as we’d hoped they would. Not that we’d have given them much of a choice… We spent part of the fourth of July together as well as a day at Six Flags Great Escape. A great day was had by all, despite the forecast of rain (20 minutes in the afternoon, when we were already in the water park) and the second mortgage required to pay for food, beverages and games. Oh, and if anyone tells you that you can easily navigate around the falling/shooting water on the Lazy River, I can vouch for the fact that they are l-y-i-n-g. Trust me…
    Despite our busy schedules, we managed to get together several times. What we did not do, however, was go to the greatly anticipated Billy Joel-Elton John concert. It was canceled. Or rather, postponed. Obviously, a postponement didn’t really help us. Apparently, Billy Joel was sick, and his doctor ordered him to rest. We were devastated. Gutted. We went out to dinner instead, and our waiter, while sympathetic to our plight, was not willing to sing any Billy Joel or Elton John songs, despite our attempts to convince him otherwise.
  • On our last night, we took the Little One to a restaurant called The Pasta Factory in order to catch an old high school friend of mine in action. The Little One, who was initially rather disgruntled over the fact that we wouldn’t take him to Chuck E. Cheese (damn those television commercials!) , warmed up to Mr. Twisty right away, giggling and laughing at his jokes and balloon skills while I managed to sneak in a few adult conversations between gags. If you’re in the area, definitely check this guy out. He’s a consummate professional and a really nice guy. I guarantee he’ll make you laugh.
  • I won’t bore you with the gory details, but suffice it to say that there was a lot of shopping. Clothing aside, I finally managed to find a suitable laptop bag, which definitely wasn’t easy! If you’re looking for a functional (read ugly) laptop bag that looks like a laptop bag, you’ll have lots to choose from. If, however, you are a woman looking for something stylish, something that doesn’t really look like a laptop bag, well, good luck with that. Definitely a hole in the market on this one, folks.
    In addition to the laptop bag, I joined the ranks of iPod owners, acquiring a sexy little iPod Touch as a birthday present from my parents. I’ve loaded it up with applications, photos, podcasts, games and music, and honestly can’t understand how I never thought to buy one before my mother suggested it as a possible gift. What beauty… What functionality… Sigh…
    And of course, all the tiny empty spaces in our suitcases were filled with aliens of the “cytoquada” kind. We are now the proud owners of an alien creation chamber, an Omnitrix, and a wide assortment of colorful, scary little creatures and other related paraphernalia.

All in all, this was definitely one of our more successful trips to the US. We are finally over our jet lag (three cheers for vodka – hurrah!), and the Little One is once again using more Hebrew than English (though the words “butt” and “poop” still pop up with dizzying regularity). My heart is full. My wallet is empty. And so begins our return to normal life. Normal being a relative term, of course…

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  1. You got an alien creation chamber???

    Sounds like you had a great time indeed. That camp sounds interesting.

  2. Heart full and wallet empty — that’s the hallmark of a great vacation.

    “Only in America can you find Muslim campers in a Jewish day camp, singing Hatikvah and celebrating Occupation Day”
    made me laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed in my life, I think.

    And sorry about the Billy/Elton cancelation. Of course now maybe when they reschedule i can actually arrange to go. (I bet you’d forgotten all about my t-shirt anyway.)

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