The dog days of Summer have settled in. It's 7 am on a Sunday. Looking out my window, I see, maybe not the dogs, but the dog days for sure. A Sunday to do nothing. What a nice concept. The coolth of a beautiful summer Sunday is coming through the screen -- birds are whistling. Nobody is stirring. You can tell it's going to be a hot one. It's in the air. But right now it's bright and sunny, cool and beautiful, peaceful, quiet and still.
A Sunday to do nothing - but not for us. We've signed a contract on the sale of our house. So there's going to be lots and lots to do. How 'bout like packing (or discarding) the "stuff" of our entire life in this house since 1978? I always like telling how we have boxes in the basement that have not been opened since we moved here from our apartment at 650 Ocean Avenue in Flatbush! More than the moving to a new and much smaller abode (we'll be renting an apartment somewhere downtown Brooklyn), the packing, discarding, cleaning is what's daunting to me. I guess in the back of my mind the downsizing from house to apartment is also very frightening but all I can focus on right now is giving up the relative peace and quiet of my retired life for the chaos and exhaustion of the months ahead as we try to decide what to take and what to dump.
There must be a simpler life somewhere. Why do we acquire so much stuff? Take just our collection of family photographs, for example. Being in the camera business the massive collection of photos and albums that I, the family photographer and documentarian, have produced is going to fill many, many boxes in their own right. What to do with all those pictures? A lesson learned from my parents' demise in the last two years is that the kids (my brother, sister and I) didn't want to inherit all those photos. We have our own photos. To be sure, we took the most important ones (and there were many) -- those that documented our family's history. But many hundreds of my parents'photos were ultimately discarded. No one wanted them. Strange time of life for us, no? (I'm talking to my contemporaries here). At this age, I can't help but ponder, having discarded many of my parents'photos, how many of our photos my children will want to keep and preseve.
Stacey and I were in the country this weekend. On Friday we drove to Tolland, Massachusetts. That's the idyllic setting of Camp Kinderland where, for the last 24 years or so, I've been taking the annual camp photos. My kids long ago graduated from camp ... Stacey and I haven't.
It's actually something I enjoy very much. The camp gets more beautiful with every year -- great improvements have been made to the physical property: new bunks, a fabulous new dining room and upgrading to those buildings already there. The camp sits by itself on a lovely lake in a most beautiful section of the state, about a half an hour east of Great Barrington. In my mind's eye the vision of "summer in the country" - becomes a reality with a visit to Camp Kinderland.
Camp Kinderland is in Tolland, Massachusettes on a very back-country road. Beautiful!
And the camp is not just a beautiful physical entity. It's, as its website proclaims, "Camp with a conscience." Indeed it is and has always been. Kinderland is a progressive Jewish secular camp, born out of the struggles of the left wing Jewish workers who came to this country as immigrants in the early part of the 20th century. They wanted a place for their kids that would teach them the values that they believed in. And so instead of color wars at another camp, at Kinderland the kids engage in Peace Olympics.. The teams will be different nations or different trade unions. Each team will then frenetically busy themselves reasearching the history of their country (for example), design traditional costumes, write songs and plays that portray the struggles that ensued. All this prepation will be used at the culmination of the Olympics in a marathon of games and presentations and festivities. It's really tremendous fun and very exciting and the kids really get into it. On top of the education and appreciation of different cultures and traditions gained there from, there's also the spirit of cooperation and mastery of craftmanship derived from the participation in putting together the final exhibition of the team's work. Hey! I can still sing an anti-apartheid song from South Africa (in original dialect!) that I learned forty years ago from the intrepid Matty Simon (the camp's intrepid music director for many years).
The camp is on its own lake. Very tranquil. Note the ducks on the lower left. Natural beauty reigns.
This progressive tradition is upheald proudly at the modern Camp Kinderalnd in Tolland. This April saw a mighty anti-war demonstration in New York city. There in the middle of it was the Camp Kinderland banner with a large and spirited contingent which Stacey and I joined.
I attended Camp in the 60's as a CIT and then was the camp lifeguard for another 5 years. That was when the camp was located in Hopewell Junction, New York on Sylvan Lake. I have such wonderful memories of that period in my life. In fact, a few years after the camp moved and the bunks, dining room and rec hall were torn down to make way for a subdivision, I visited the remaining ruins. Only tall weeds, some of the roads that wended there way downhill to the lake and the foundation of the dining room were still visible. It was a very melancholy reminder of the fun I shared and the values I had learned from that camp. For a while, after that visit, I had a very powerful, recurring dream that I was back in camp re-living those very happy days.
Camp photos are fun. Here's the deal. We left New York at about seven and arrived at Camp around ten or so. Ira, one of the managers, had left us our clipboard, complete with a schedule of when each group would be meeting us for photos. We'd then proceed to photograph the entire group (there are eight of them), then the boys bunk, then the girls bunk, then each and every camper for an individual portrait. We then repeated that, again and again, for each group in succession. A big job. But fun. And the kids, I remarked to myself over and over, were really lovely. Not very cooperative, but lots of fun and in such high spirits.
Some of the kids hanging out, waiting for me to get ready to shoot their group.
Kids with the Paul Robeson playhouse in the back.
We finished about five and then headed about an hour away to West Springfield where we reserved a room at a very budget Ramada. Dinner was in a very fine Indian restaurant (in West Springfield??). Up early the next morning to get back to Camp by 8:30 and the piece-de-resistance: The All Camp Photo. I'm up on a ladder. The entire camp is assembled with the pristine lake as their backdrop. We try to lay it out so the group fills my viewfinder - not easy. But in a few minutes, it's done and another year recorded for history.
The "All Camp" photo we took on Saturday morning before returning to the City.
We made our way back home taking the slow route. We headed West on what must be one of the most beautiful country roads in existence (and certainly our favorite). State Route 57 which runs east and west, travels through idyllic Massachusetts countryside. It runs through some beautiful old New England villages and rolling hills as it approaches the bustling commercial center of the Berkshires, Great Barrington. A quick lunch and then the twisting and rolling Taconic Parkway back down to the city and home. A lovely weekend: it was summer in the country, every city person's vision of escape from the hot and humid dog days of Brooklyn.