My Double Life
Closing ThoughtsCommunity

My Double Life

Shaindle Schmuckler counts the days until summer.

Shaindle Schmuckler spreads her energy and humor as a regular contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Shaindle Schmuckler
Shaindle Schmuckler

I loved school. Truly I did.

Why are you laughing? Most kids love school; even the ones that hate school love school. It’s a perfect place to be “visiting” with friends. On one of my report cards, the teacher wrote in the behavior/conduct box, “loves to visit with friends.” I can hear you saying under your breath: why am I not surprised? I was a friendly child.

I cannot refute this.

I loved our neighborhood, our little village in the midst of the big city.

When parents sent their children to school, their intent was giving their children the best education possible. Loving school was not particularly high up on their list of importance. My own list was quite different.

As my parents struggled with becoming Americanized, one important reason they sent me to school, aside from it was the law, was to help them and show them the way. They wanted me to speak with the same rhythm as all the “American” children on my block in the Bronx.

Even as a young child, I was programmed to be on track for a good job, preferably a teacher or secretary. Steady jobs, jobs that offered paid vacation and retirement options. At this time in our country, as well as in the Bronx, these were considered high achieving, respected positions for women. These positions also allowed for marriage and family. In today’s lingo, my dad might say: “Now that’s what I’m talking about!”

I am not as old as this sounds.

OK, I admit, I did love learning new “stuff.” I felt so powerful. Particularly since I could teach my parents how to say said “stuff.”

Here are some examples:
“No mom, it’s furrier.”
“No dad, it’s elevator.”
“Put up the laundry.”
“No mom, do the laundry.”
“Make out the lights.”
“No mom, shut the lights.”

Truth to power, as much as I loved school, I could not wait for June 30th. Not only my birthday, but the last day of school. It’s time for my summer self to emerge.
Summer camp was sunshine. The Bronx was shadowy and grey.

I am one of three sisters. When each of us finally turned summer camp age, we were all shipped off to live a privileged summer life. Of the three of us, one came home early and never went back. Unfortunately, she could not figure out what the big deal was about summer camp. She wanted to be at the bungalow colony with my mom. Two of us, however, bought into the camp concept immediately, if not sooner.

Now I ask you, why do we say: “immediately, if not sooner” given it can’t be much sooner than immediately?

I went to camp all my growing up years. I grew up at camp. I learned about life at camp. I learned the beauty of Judaism in camp. I learned to be a leader and about teamwork at camp. I learned about friendship at camp. I learned how to shave my legs at camp. I learned to tweeze my eyebrows at camp. I learned there are always consequences for behaviors, at camp.

I learned the importance and the true meaning of mitzvot at camp. I learned the extraordinary beauty in celebrating the Shabbat, in camp. I learned about the birds and bees at camp. (Yes, I actually learned that it is not always the birds and bees; and for goodness sakes, do not jump to any conclusions here.) I learned to love the sound of Yiddish. I must finally admit, I felt quite elitist given I was fluent in speaking Yiddish.

I learned how to make egg in the hole while we were out in the woods camping, at camp. I still love egg in the hole. My girls did too. Need the recipe? Just email me; I am happy to share. Learned sharing at camp.

I did not grow up, leave the Bronx and become a secretary. (Have you ever noticed the only borough with a “the” in front of it is The Bronx? Now that’s what I’m talking about). I did however, with each of my life’s growth spurts, become a teacher, children’s life coach, a therapist, and you guessed it, a camp director.

Summer camp was sunshine. The Bronx was shadowy and grey.

Summer camp is the place to instill the importance of Judaism, to instill its values, to expose the campers and staff to the beauty, the music, the dance and the comfort of the sounds of the Jewish culture.

So, when I took the position as camp director in Tampa Florida, and at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, I knew instinctively how Jewish camping could wrap both children and staff in the comfort of a beloved blanket.

I loved my neighborhood; I loved the people who made our neighborhood feel the safety of being home. But summer camp was the bomb.

As I sit and write my Shaindle’s Shpiel, I can feel the warmth the blanket of Judaism offers, and the warmth of my summer camp memories.

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