Explaining to non-camp people anything about what camp life means is always a complicated undertaking. It was hard to explain to friends in middle school and high school, and continues to be a challenge as a 38-year-old that still loves camp. So last summer as I was preparing to drive for two days to go to the 60th celebration, colleagues and friends couldn’t understand.
“You mean there’s no air conditioning?”
“Singing and sweating? And you want to do that?”
“Two days in a car for a short weekend?”
These are just a few of the confused questions I received. But I knew that yes, my heart was in Zionsville and I was ready to go back to GUCI. If you’ve done the math, as a 38-year-old, it’s been a little while since I was at camp. I spent 4 summers as a camper starting in 1993, went to Israel with GUCI, was a proud part of Avodah ’98 (Tyrone!!) and spent 5 years on staff ending in 2003. Preparing for the anniversary weekend I was hopeful to catch up with folks from all my time at camp but could never have anticipated the lasting connections the weekend would bring.
I’m proud to say that Avodah ’98 was represented in mass at the 60th and our love of each other and ruach was unchanged from our time as Avodahnikim 20 years prior. The connection between the group of us at the 60th was like no time had passed. For many of us, it had actually been 20 years since we had seen each other or spoken. But as camp people know, 20 years is like no time at all when it comes to the bonds that are formed amongst GUCI friends. We were thick as thieves, catching back up with an energy and passion that was contagious. We barely slept-sharing stories of love and marriage, children and careers, laughter and tears about the time we have spent together.
Leaving Zionsville on Sunday felt just like it used at the end of the summer. Emotions ran through me wondering if it would be another 20 years before we all reconnected. I happy to say that’s not the case. A strong group of us continue to stay in touch, sharing our day to day, the good and the bad, and of course always saying Shabbat Shalom on Fridays. This connection has filled a space in my heart that I didn’t even know was empty. In March a small group of us even planned what I hope will be the first of many trips together.
As the weather has started to change and days are starting to feel like summer is near memories of my time at GUCI are always reignited. Bunk nights, kesher, Van Halen concerts, and all the friendships that helped me form the Jewish identity I have today. And I’m happy that the 60th anniversary brought me back together with my ’98 crew to share those old memories and to create new ones.