This weekend I got to go home and no, not the place where I technically live when I’m not at college, but my second home, my home away from home: camp. Every time I go back to camp I am reminded of just how lucky I am to have grown up with something so special so when I got back, I wrote a letter to Joe and Betty Harlam, the founders of Camp Harlam and I want to share it here because- in the words of A.A. Milne- I am so lucky to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
Dear Joe and Betty,
There is only a finite amount of words that one human can know, posses, express and write. A finite number of symbols and sounds that create meaning and even though there are so many, sometimes it simply is not enough. Sometimes, our feelings, our raw emotions are unexplainable through the words which we have at our disposal. That’s why writing this letter has caused me so much trouble- because I don’t think there are enough sounds, symbols, words, letters, or numbers to express how I feel about this place that I call home. For this feeling that I posses, it’s a feeling that reverberates in open spaces and breaks down walls, it’s a feeling that leaks through cracks and gushes down rivers, it’s a feeling inexplicable yet once possessed, can never be forgotten. It’s a feeling that makes my heart ache and my stomach tingle. A feeling that is heard in every song lyric, felt by the arms wrapping around each other, seen in every shooting star. It’s a feeling that is shared by so many, that you take for granted when you have it and long for it when you don’t. It’s a feeling unlike any other.
Every word that I etch down, every sentence that I scrape together contains a million more thoughts and words which cannot be fit but through the jumble and mess of my brain the same two words come to me, time and time again:
Two words, two syllables, eight letters. Thank you.
Thank you for teaching me how to love and embrace and accept myself and all of my imperfections.
Thank you for giving me such pride in my Jewish identity.
Thank you for giving me a reason to never give up.
Thank you for giving me my best friends, friends that have shaped and molded me into the person I am today.
Thank you for everything.
Joe and Betty, when you both opened this camp, as a small basketball camp in 1958, I doubt you had any idea how many lives it would touch, how strong of a bond it would create between people and how it would foster such a vibrant Jewish community. I know I am one in thousands to have entered your gates and I there are many more to come but that has never stopped camp from being truly one of a kind. And while camp will certainly continue to help gawky, insecure, children see just how amazing they really are, I don’t think I will ever find a place that has made me feel quite as safe, as comfortable and as loved ever again.
Two words, two syllables, eight letter. It will never be enough but sometimes it has to be.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.