If you ask Tzofi what her favorite part of “Camp Tata” is so far, she’ll tell you it was going to Splish Splash, the (somewhat) nearby water park. If you ask Odelia, she might admit that it was getting (free) Slurpees today. Hollie will likely tell you that it was going to the beach, or perhaps getting (also free) ice cream, and Azi will say “Zayde choo choo” (even when we have to wait for the train outside in the pouring rain).
And yet, while these activities are certainly exciting, and are most definitely adventures that they wouldn’t have if they’d gone to camp elsewhere, I wouldn’t choose any of them as the highlight of the summer. At least, not yet. 11 days into our trip, I’ve been mostly a spectator at Camp Tata, the faithful mother who welcomes her tired children with open arms, who washes away the dirt from a day spent running around in the hot sun. And despite the excitement that each child exhibits at the end of the day, it is not the activity that I’d ascribe as the most critical part of the trip – it’s the camaraderie.
In the past week and a half, the kids have been away from their friends, their toys and the freedom that comes from living in Israel, but they never complain. Instead, they’ve been making their own good time, playing together for hours on end, despite the fact that they’re without the closet full of toys that they normally have. They take care of each other in the morning, allowing me to ‘sleep in’ after I’ve worked during the wee hours of the morning, and they whisper quietly in bed each night, playing pretend in their temporary bedrooms until their eyelids can no longer stay open.
There’s no question that the kids (and I) miss their father and their friends. But in the absence of play dates, after-school activities and homework, it’s easy to see how these activities mask the kids’ relationships with each other throughout the year. And in the (forced) absence of contemporaries, nothing is more beautiful than seeing the children love and appreciate each other in new ways. This, I can honestly say, is my favorite part of Camp Tata thus far.