Camp Memories – A Poem


By Aaron Saxe

[Editor’s Note: Each week at the Jim Joseph Foundation staff meeting, a member of the team shares reflections and thoughts about life and work at this unique moment. Aaron Saxe, senior program officer at the Foundation, recently shared this poem below that draws on his memories of many summers at Camp Swig in Northern California. Within his grantee-partner portfolio, Aaron’s engagement with Foundation for Jewish Camp adds immense meaning and personal fulfillment to his work. After all, he credits his own time attending Jewish summer camp as a driving force behind his desire to become a Jewish professional. While his day job calls on him to understand and respond to the significant financial and programmatic impact this crisis has had, and will continue to have, on this field, he was equally hit on the emotional side as so many others have been too. He found comfort recalling many memories about the formative role camp played in his life – in a fun, creative way that reflects camp itself.]

Camp has been cancelled; tears have been shed

I’ve shared the financials, here are memories instead.

You see, camp’s in my blood, I went year after year

It’s where I learned and I grew, where I’d dance, sing, and cheer.

Session songs I remember, like the one from Bonim

To the tune of a favorite, the Friends intro theme.

My friends they told me that if I went to Camp Swig

There’d be some people there that I would really dig.

We’d form a bond of friendship oh so strong

And have a time creating memories that’d last a whole life long.

On that topic there’s Brandon, from birth was my friend

But at camp we grew closer as my bunkmates contend.

Chuck, a great counselor, but ate cheese off my za

And Adam the Hawaiian who’d say “what’s up brah?”

Of course Shira and Jen, but I was too scared to chat

Ten years later as counselors, great friends, imagine that?

And Steven a bit troubled but in adulthood made right

We connected years later, a surprising delight.

Perhaps Jeremy from Southland was my favorite of lodgers

Which is sure saying something ‘cause he roots for the Dodgers.

And of course Mr. Miller, a melodic young singer

He led us in song as he picked the six stringer.

The days were quite packed as the schedule will show

There’s so much to share, deep breath, here we go.

Sunrise hikes for young kids are not easy to do

But the views were majestic as the sky turned to blue.

Aruchat Boker, breakfast was first

Dumped sugar on Corn Flakes for a sweet flavor burst.

Omanut, we did art, made a mezuzah from clay

From apartments to houses, it still hangs to this day.

Nikayon, we would clean, spin the wheel for our jobs

Wasn’t easy or fun as young boys are such slobs.

Menucha when we’d rest, read notes from the fam

From my parents and brothers, from grandpa and gram.

Coincidentally, an email from my mom just came through

With a picture of a letter I sent in ’92.

Dear Mom, Dad, and Brothers is where I’d begin

Then apparently told them about a bottle we’d spin

On an overnight campout that I said was terrific

Until the pita and eggs that I said were horrific.

To my brothers I wrote “camp’s hella dope”

Such language deserves a mouth washed out with soap.

I wished bro HBD, regrets, can’t celebrate

Please save me some cake though, nay, save the whole plate.

Told my brother to tell my mom to send a package, just one.

With a little guilt trip, said only I’ve received none.

These letters, don’t believe me, may accuse of deceit?

Not to worry, my inbox contains the receipt.

Z’man Sport, now we’re talking, it’s my time to shine

Except for gaga as you’ll see, prepare for a whine.

Teva, in nature, I’ll admit not my fave.

But that one hike was worth it deep into a cave.

Chofesh was free time, mid-afternoon treat

At canteen there were plenty good things we could eat.

I’d get It’s Its and candy, juice boxes and more

A disposable camera, took pictures galore.

One memory’s not fond though, still haunts me today

‘Bout a game they call gaga, that we’d love to play.

In a pit with eight sides, they said that I’d cheat

But I think that’s because they’d get beat on repeat.

I used the heel of my palm, effective and fair

“It’s too fast, used a fist!” they all would declare.

I knew the truth but out I would go

Those that were left hit the ball awfully slow

Am I spending too long recalling this tale?

Well as I said that it haunts me, I still sometimes wail.

It got cooler by dinner, Aruchat Erev

A welcome break from the sun, camp was hot as the Negev.

Birkat Hamazon, the after meal prayer

We’d bang on the table, enable some flair.

A birthday at camp is great you’d presume

That is true, they would sing, and I’d skip ‘round the room.

I had my first slow dance, song: November Rain

A nine minute ballad, my back was in pain.

The evening programs I was told not to miss

But I ditched with Michelle and I had my first kiss.

I won’t linger on this one, that might be scary

As I look at my screen and see Josh, Dawne, and Barry.

Have I shared about gaga? I promise, no grudges

But seriously, what was wrong with those blind, jealous judges?

Friendship bracelets, frisbee, Shabbat barbecue

Could go on and on but I’ll bid you adieu.

As I advance through the years, my memory’s fading

Much that I’ve done, the details evading.

But these camp memories are strong, the stories are clever

Which tells me camp will be back and be stronger than ever.