Once We Were Kings

chadarochel
Sometimes the noise inside my head is overwhelming and I have to close my eyes, take a deep breath and remind myself that all  I am hearing are echoes from the past and nothing more.

I suppose I should clarify something, I am not crazy and I am completely aware of where I am, what year it is and what I am doing.

You see that picture above is what we called the Chadar Ochel, the dining hall from the camp I went to as a camper and worked at as a counselor. If you were trying to make a list of places and people that had a significant impact on my life camp would be somewhere around the top of the list.

I can’t spend any time there without the memories of the friends, relationships and experiences that came into my life because of it and since I spent the weekend there with my family there are a million thoughts swirling through my mind.

The Glory Years

Camp is a funny sort of place to me. Sometimes we talk about how once we were kings and how we roamed the hills of Ojai and everyone knew us.

We were the favorite counselors, most likely suspects for practical jokes and the counselors that our campers wanted to grow up to be. Younger siblings would sometimes complain about how they were tired of always being known as so and so’s little brother/sister.

They wanted to be known for themselves and not as the younger sibling.

And yet time passes and all of the notoriety dies down and disappears because we all stop being campers and most of us stop working at camp. It doesn’t take long for people to move on to other things and for your name/face to be forgotten because you aren’t there and others have filled your place.

Yet when you think about your time at camp it is hard not to view it as being the golden years. There was never a better time, better people or more fun to be had than when you were there.

It is at times an unrealistic and egocentric position but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because when you think about camp it is preferable to view it that way and not as an awful place you hated.

Then and Now

This weekend I tried not to be the old guy who can only talk about the past and who can’t believe that anyone could have more fun now than we did in the past.

It felt to me like I did a good job of it in part because camp isn’t the same any more.That is not a bad thing either, it has grow and expanded and that makes me happy.

The location is the same but there are some new buildings and a bunch of the old have been remodeled. So I can’t say that I have memories/experiences everywhere there like I used to and because of some of those changes the view has changed in some areas.

Can’t see certain landmarks in the hills surrounding camp in the same way anymore. If we stood on the hill and I described what I saw during The Fire it wouldn’t have the same feeling for you but then again if you weren’t there you might not appreciate what it meant to be evacuated at 3:30 AM.

You wouldn’t know what it felt like to see the entire camp out on the baseball field, to see the music director carrying Torahs under his arm or to have seen fear on the faces of some of the mothers that worked there.

And that is ok.

There Is A Season

Since I went to college in Los Angeles I was lucky to work at camp year round so when I look at the picture above of the Chadar Ochel I am not surprised to see an empty lawn in front of it.

That is something you don’t see during the summer because there are always people, especially right before a meal when the bunks/tents are lined up and or people are dancing.

But even though I have spent lots of time at camp outside of the summer inevitably my memory is drawn to summer time and it is hard not to think about people.

Because ultimately it is people who made camp important, meaningful and significant. It is people who helped to create those moments and memories and they are far more fun to think about when I am sharing them with those who were there.

It was good to be back at camp.

beach

Stopped at the beach on the way back from camp and smiled not just because I love the water but because it is the same beach we went to with camp. More memories.

2 comments
Abby Fleishman Leviss
Abby Fleishman Leviss

You WERE a total King Josh!  We former campers will never forget you!  Always funny!  Always a total hero!  I miss camp too - they were definitely my golden years.  My husband is SO sick of hearing about it. 

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes moderator

@Abby Fleishman Leviss Hi Abby. That is very kind of you and maybe for a short while it was true. Those were great times and I probably remember more about my former campers than they realize.

When I first got married my wife asked if there would be a time where she wouldn't have to listen to all of those stories, especially the ones where she doesn't know anyone I am talking about. ;)

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