There is a little piece of heaven tucked away about 5 miles into the mountains above Malibu’s Leo Carrillo State Beach. As you drive up to it’s pearly gates that read “Shalom Institute,” you know that you are about to enter into a magical place. This charming oasis is Camp JCA Shalom, a place where you are greeted by cheering counselors and llamas and where cars are left in a dirt lot forcing you to walk into the camp on foot.
When I picked up my daughter from camp yesterday, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that she was having some homesick moments at camp, so her reaction was a moment that I had been anticipating for the entire 9 hour car ride from Tucson.
As we walked over the bridge into camp, we heard a little voice peeking through the wilderness, “Daddy!!!!!” There she was…our beautiful little girl surrounded by friends with a glowing smile and jumping up and down. We made our way to her, and as she introduced us to friend after friend, I had tears sliding down my face. She was fine, and I was so moved by her happiness.
After an hour of goodbyes and the “lost and found tour,” we finally loaded the car and made our way out of camp.
We drove down Pacific Coast Highway taking in the beauty of the ocean, a view desert dwellers don’t often get to appreciate, and I looked in the back seat at my daughter. Tears. Big silent ones. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I’m going to miss my new friends.” “Oh, honey,” I wanted to commiserate….”I know exactly how you feel.” I remember that feeling after leaving camp when I was a kid. It would take me a good week to fall back into the groove of my regular life. I just let her cry knowing that she needed to and trying to be sensitive to that oh-so-familiar feeling of camp sicknesses.
As we headed back into the desert, this time I heard singing from the back of the car. She sang camp song after camp song with joy on her face trying to relive the specialness of the last two weeks. I knew then that my baby had truly become a camp girl, and as a person who made their entire career around song leading and camp music, I couldn’t be more happy for her.
The real test of happiness came with one question, “So? Do you want to go back next year?” The response was, “Yes, but maybe for one week, because I missed you.” I replied with, “Well, if you only go for one week, then you don’t get the horseback trail riding day.” “Okay then,” she quickly stated, “I’ll go for two weeks then.” A done deal….sealed with a kiss and happy memories and with beautiful promises of “next year.”
Camp JCA Shalom is truly a special and perfect camp environment. Friends have been asking all about it….”What do you think? Should I send my kids there?” The answer is yes, yes and YES! Do it….that camp creates memories and friendships that will last a lifetime, and I am so glad we chose to give our daughter this experience. It is irreplaceable, and the camp is now a home away from home. We love you, Camp JCA Shalom! You rock!
My song of the day is Joni Mitchell’s “California. We heard it driving along PCH yesterday as we pulled out of camp. It was like a sweet goodbye to beautiful sunny California, so click HERE to go to Youtube to share our joy with us of an amazing summer and to listen to the lovely song. As we say in Hebrew, “L’hitraot, Camp JCA Shalom.” We’ll “see you again!”