Summer ritual begins with smiles and a bus ride

Summer ritual begins with smiles and a bus ride

For local day campers, an annual return to fun without the homework

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

As thunderstorms threatened, six-year-old Jaime Levi of Maplewood prepared for her first day at JCC MetroWest’s Camp Deeny Riback in Flanders.

She showed off her brand new sparkly water bottle to a visitor. “I got it at the Livingston Mall, and this outside part comes off if I need it to, and that’s all,” she said.

She was looking forward to swimming and basketball, her two favorite activities, and seeing returning friends. June 25, 2012, the opening day at Jewish day camps around the area, marked the start of Jamie’s third summer at CDR.

The youngest of three Levi children, Jaime has a 13-year-old brother who headed to NJ Y Camp’s Cedar Lake Camp in Milford, Pa., for his second summer there on June 26. Her 16-year-old sister’s summer plans were still uncertain.

As she waited on her stoop with her mother, Renée Levi, and her dog Kippi, Jaime kept running inside to check the time, singing as it inched closer to 8:05, the expected arrival time of the bus. She double checked her purple sequin duffel bag, filled with towels, extra bathing suits, and sunscreen for the day’s activities. She also had a Tupperware box decorated with princess stickers, which contained camp essentials for the summer — extra clothes and hair items, and for Jaime, who is severely allergic to nuts, two EpiPens.

“I see something yellow!” she shouted, as headlights appeared in the distance. False alarm. “I tricked you!” she shouted with glee, as the sky darkened and her mother brought out a hot pink rain coat for her, just in case.

Soon enough, the bus pulled up. “Behave, and have a good time,” her mother said, grasping her shoulders and giving her a kiss.

Her counselor, Adria, hopped out, introduced herself, and Jamie trotted off to the bus without even a backwards glance. Within a few minutes, Jamie was seated on the bus with a smile on her face, and the bus pulled away and headed for Flanders, where she would join over 400 campers for opening day activities.

Meanwhile, in Livingston, buses were starting to pull up at Gesher, on the grounds of the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy. Campers gathered on the bleachers, where they would every day throughout the summer for opening announcements, a Hebrew word of the day (that day was soos, or horse), and a joke of the day pulled from “deep, deep, deep down in the archives of jokedom.”

Because of the weather, campers spent much of the morning inside, but they didn’t seem to mind at all, and activities from tennis to ropes to arts and crafts simply moved inside the building. Other activities work better inside, especially Makoto, a life-size version of Simon, in which campers bonk lights that appear on large poles.

As a visitor arrived in early afternoon, outdoor activities were resuming and campers headed down to the pool, the go karts, the outdoor nature shack, and archery. Caroline Sheffet was enjoying one of her favorite Gesher activities, sculpture. A fifth-year camper from Roseland entering third grade, she shrugged off having spent the morning inside. “You just do different activities inside. Instead of going to the pool, you do something else,” she said.

Acknowledging she was “a little nervous to leave home” that morning, she was glad to go outside for another of her favorite Gesher activities, swimming. She was joined by Miriam Topilow of Livingston, who also loves sculpture — they were making clay mosaics — and who thinks that next to sculpture, ropes is the best. “Ropes is so much fun!” she said.

Meanwhile, another five-year camper, rising fifth grader Jacob Gannon of Livingston, thinks “everything is fun” at Gesher, especially playing sports. With some new campers in his bunk, Jacob said, “I think summer is going to be even funner.” His counselors are “nice” and “fun,” and upon learning about a new climbing wall in the pool this year, he shouted, “That’s awesome!”

By the end of the day, Jaime was worn out but happy, and arrived home with her purple duffel bag, her water bottle, and a big smile on her face.

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