Horror Stories From Visiting Day.
My daughter is at sleepaway camp 133 miles away. She has been sending letters daily explaining that she cannot wait until visiting day – since she will be coming home with me then. That Visiting Day was this past Sunday.
A week earlier, she had called from the office begging me to pick her up. My answer was “we are not even going to talk about it until visiting day.” Clearly in her mind this meant that she had every right to come home on visiting day.
So, with a sense of dread (which I have already blogged about), I packed up eight people into a seven seater van (don’t report me, some of them were really small) for a 2.5 hour drive up into the mountains.
I gave all passengers a sturdy pep talk on the way up. Everyone in that car was to encourage daughter/sister to STAY at camp. The only talk of home was to be of how boring it is. I went armed with GPS, food for the day, food for daughter, gifts, extra blanket, new books…you get the point.
Ten miles before we arrive at camp… the car dies. Rather the transmission dies, but I was not aware at the time that this was the case. Daughter is at camp no doubt crying that everyone else’s parents are there, and we have abandoned her. Our passengers below the age of fourteen, which comprise the majority, climb out of the car and begin to whine.
DH flagged down the first frummy*-filled car he spied, and of course they were on their way to the same visiting day. Miraculously, they had room for (and were willing to take) four of us. Only four to go.
At least an hour, and many failed phone calls later, (we were in the mountains) the next four arrived. I was now talking dear daughter out of coming home, managing six children and a mother’s helper with only the help of the mother’s helper, trying to calmly figure out a way to get everyone home, and avoid collective heat stroke — all at the same time.
My brother arrived from Hoboken, NJ, which is almost as far. He had arranged for a car, but he had to get it back by a certain time. He got to give his dear niece a hug.. and then run out to try and help DH (darling husband) with the car.
Brother and DH had their own bout with frustration as I wandered about camp, hugging daughter and calling around for solutions on my dying cell phone, all at the same time. Overpriced snowcones seem to mollify the children. While daughter wept quietly about being forced to remain suffering in the clutches of a place that structures her time for her, (imagine!)many other of my offspring went on at great length about how unfair it is that she got to stay there and they did not.
By the time Brother and DH finally made it back to the camp, it was just about time for my brother to turn around and leave. I think he got maybe an hour with his niece, and he spent the whole day in the car (which did not make it back by the arranged time, resulting in a fee.)
At almost the same moment I miraculously found an angel of a man/principal/Rabbi who lived very far from us, but happened to be driving 20 minutes south of our house … and leaving momentarily. So DH dropped everything and gave one of what must have been two hugs to his dear daughter, and hastily arranged our two youngest in the back of Angel Man’s car.
We have friends who spend the summer as a family at another camp in the same mountains. They have two cars at camp, and incredibly were willing to allow us to drive one of them home. I have known for a long time that they are tzadikim, (righteous people), but I am perpetually humbled by the amount that they do for us personally. They drove the car to us, so that the other five of us could get home.
So, we went to back to the bunk to pack up the things I had to take home. This, of course, was the point at which reality finally hit my daughter, who returned to crying and pleading.
We eventually got her to say goodbye to us. I actually bribed my daughter to stay at the camp that cost a fortune to send her to. She did agree to it though. I am such a sucker.
We eventually got our things packed up in the car, and our friends back to their camp, ready to hit the road and finally head home. On route 17 on visiting day.
Ask any parent who has ever sent their child to a frum sleepaway camp in New York about route 17 on visiting day. All of the Orthodox Jewish camps are apparently on this one piece of this one road. And they all have visiting day on the same day. It is truly historic. The people who live in bungalow colonies there know that one simply does not go out in the car on visiting day.
I don’t think I have ever been around that many Jews in one place at one time, except at the kotel on a yom tov.
The 2.5 hour drive took 5.5 hours. That is only because I got off of route 17 for a while and snuck through the local roads. Everyone in the car was hot, tired, and hungry. Then the car’s air conditioning stopped working. Of course I was only grateful; the car was a gift, a/c or not.
We did get home. Finally. My van is still in the mountains, and I expect to be without a car for at least ten days. It will cost us thousands to fix, right as our next tuition bill comes in,( now for six children) to be in yeshiva.
I am really not making this more dramatic than it was. I got home and tried to decompress for a few minutes before crashing into bed… on my computer.
It died too. The laptop’s fan has stopped working so it overheats frequently and easily and the computer just shuts itself off. At least I won’t have to retrieve it from the mountains before it can be repaired.
One of my sons, the same tzaddik who wrote me the scholastic book letter, turned to me during the parking-lot-like part of the trip and said “at least we are having some quality time together, Ima.”
I would like to think that there is some great cosmic reason behind the sudden and intense heaping of rotten luck and frustration. I know that Hashem knows what he is doing. He certainly could have found some easier ways for us to spend “quality time” together. I spent a lot of time in the car asking Hashem to let this be kapara (atonement) for the month of Elul (which just started) and make my teshuva for Rosh Hashana easier.
I spent the next day exhausted, cranky, sluggish, with mounds and mounds of work to get done. In addition, of course, to tending to the broken car in the mountains and its retrieval, plus the scheduling of repair for the broken computer.
However, I am much luckier than I was one year ago. Now, as I sit during horrible, terrible agonizing days like this year’s Visiting Day, at least I continually think; ”Now this is going to make for a great blog post.”
*frummy=Orthodox/religious. Meant affectionately; some of my best friends are frummies.