MAY THE GREAT CAMPER OF ALL GOOD CAMPERS BE WITH US
August 28, 2013
The night after BLUE JASMINE opened in New York in July, I went to the movie theater to see the line. The next night I went to see the movie. I like to get ready—psyched we used to say—for Woody Allen’s movies. They’re events for me.
Among the crowd emerging from the Angelika Theater onto Mercer Street on ‘line night’ were two women discussing the movie. I asked them what they thought about it. They loved it, said Cate Blanchett was fabulous and Woody was in top form. I saw both for myself the following night.
As we said good-bye, my husband asked if I noticed the Tamakwa tee-shirt on one of the women. I hadn’t. I checked. Yes, she was wearing one.
I went to Camp Tamakwa in Algonquin Park, Ontario, for five summers beginning at age 9. Water sports filled our days. Singing songs in the mess hall and at evening activities filled up the rest of the time. That old Tamakwa spirit filled me up just fine.
I still burst into camp songs at all hours, including those written by my counselors, cabin mates and me when I ran for Beaver Counsel. Each July now, at the end of Maine visits at my in-laws’, I take my sister-in-law’s hand. Together we sing “Taps” and say the Tamakwa parting benediction, “May the great camper of all good campers be with us ‘til we meet again.”
The woman at the movie theater in the tee-shirt said her son is a third generation camper. Her husband and his parents were Tamakwans after and before my time. We played Jewish geography, discovering people we both knew.
“Is your son a Forrester, Ranger, or Voyager,” I asked.
“A Ranger. He’s 11.”
11. I was still okay—still myself–at 11 before being smooth, being sharp, and pairing off with someone cool became first-choice activities. Before playing jacks in the cabin during rest period was replaced by boy talk, hair-setting, conversations about who’s wearing what cashmere sweater to dinner, and who’s making out in the woods. Songfests and campfires became the ‘Before’ not the ‘It.’ The fast, rich, pretty girls and I had little in common and little to talk about. The slick guys, who wanted those girls, and I had less.
I told my parents to save their money. I did not want to go back. Tamakwa was a country club at which I did not belong or wish to be.
What was right and wrong about my Algonquin Park summers is right and wrong for me now. Gimme singing, swimming, and Color War chants. Gimme All Waterfront Days. What we sang in the mess hall (our rendition of “Gimme that Old Time Religion”) remains with me today, “Gimme that old Tamakwa spirit, it’s good enough for me.”