Du Bist A Nazi

Du bist as Nazi, du bist a Nazi!

I turn in horror.

He’s a little boy.  Maybe four years old.  His blonde hair curls at his ears…his blue eyes sparkle with the sort of mischief I should expect from a little boy at the park with his friends without supervision.

And the other boy…three years old…sweet…innocent….wild at times…especially when he’s found candy…but mostly beautifully kind and generous, knows he’s been called something and doesn’t like how it feels.

He sticks his tongue out.

Ani Lo!  Ani David Simcha!

Another smirk.

Du bist a Nazi!

Now I know I heard right.

I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what to do.

I look at him with what I know can be a scary look, and lower my voice.

MA amarta?

He backs away, laughing, and runs off with his friend.

Du bist a Nazi.

I can’t explain this.  He’s a little boy.  He doesn’t know what a Nazi is.

And my little boy…he doesn’t know what a Nazi is.

But now he’s been called one.  And I am tormented by what I know is much bigger than this.

He’ll grow up, my little boy, and he won’t remember the incident.  Hopefully, he’ll remember how I gently reprimanded him for sticking his tongue out at  other kids, how I always reminded him that he needs to be careful not to hurt other people’s feelings and how he needs to treat everyone with the respect they deserve just by being human.

My little boy will know that I try to accept everyone and maybe he’ll try to do the same.  He’ll know that we don’t group people together by how they dress or what school they go to.  He’ll know that we believe in breaking boundaries and reaching out across the divide to love and cherish our fellow-man.  He’ll know that his mother cringes when people fight and that she cries for those who can’t see past their differences.

He’ll grow up, my little boy, and make the choices to be the kind of man he thinks he should be.

There will be a blond man with sparkling blue eyes out there somewhere…and I hope he can make choices as well.  I hope he can learn to discard what he hears at home and see the world with the same carefree way, knowing that he can always choose to look at someone who looks like my son and say something derogatory, nothing at all, or maybe…something that can unite us again.

For now…I sit with the voice of a little boy inside my head…reverberating pointless hatred and anger…and try desperately not to cry.

Summer. Yay.

Summer vacation is hell.

We started off on the right foot.  There were projects and outings and waaaaaay too many movies…and then we had to go to bed and figure out something new and exciting for Day 2.  I’m going out of my mind.

I’m starting to appreciate a little something I have always loathed and tried to pretend never happened.

My mom works in a summer camp.

Works as in still does after over 30 years…

Every year we would pack up our lives and travel however many miles we were currently living away from the Great Jewish Migration to the Catskills and join the flock.

The trips were painful.  There was vomit.  There were complaints.  There were cries.  There was pee – sometimes at rest stops…sometimes – not.  There were bedbugs in motels…truck drivers at 3am…and a certain smell I just can’t describe.

Then camp would start…and there were rules.  You HAVE to stay with your bunk.  You HAVE to play this game NOW.  You MUST had fun and you MUST sing at the top of your lungs and try to get everyone to look at you.

I genuinely hated summer camp.

For one, it was hard to balance life as a camper and the daughter of a staff member.  I never felt fully part of anything.

Then there was the fact that this particular camp is the epitome of Beis Yaakov and I was fighting that tooth and nail.  Let’s just say there was a bit of a conflict of interest between what I thought was true and what they demanded I believe.

So with much heartache, punishments and stamping of feet, the two months would pass until we would finally get back to real life and I would pretend I didn’t have to go the next summer.

I still hate summer camp.  If I meet people from there I shudder.  If I hear a song, or a cheer – or worse, the alma mater – my heart starts pounding and I look for a way, any way, out.

But now I understand my mom and can appreciate – and wish for – the kind of summers she had.

Her laundry was done for her.  She didn’t have to cook.  She didn’t have to take care of her kids.  She got access to the pool when she wanted.  She had a mother’s helper when the kids were too young to sleep in the bunkhouses.  She had air-conditioning and a fridge/freezer with plenty of ice pops.  She never had to answer a bored child’s cry.  She never had to discipline a child (except to send them to them to the head counselors if she found someone hiding out in her room) and she never had to try to get everyone out on an excursion and try not to have it end with tired, pouting kids.

Good one, Mother…thanks a lot.

Next summer, I’ll send you my little girl and you can let her experience the hell I did while I sit back and enjoy my summer.