Earlier this summer, I gave each of my Tzofimot (Grade 8 campers) metal kitchen tongs and told them that we were crabs. Then we all ran around the camp click-clacking our tong pincers and yelling “Crabs!” at the top of our lungs, to the amusement and confusion of everyone we encountered. Next, we headed to the pool for a nighttime crab swim. As we swam around our little “ocean,” I realized how wonderful it felt to be silly again, and it was clear my campers felt the same way.
In 2020, Camp Miriam pivoted and managed to run a day camp despite COVID. In 2021, we were able to return to Gabriola Island for a short time and spend three amazing weeks there. But this year was the first normal summer any of us – staff and campers alike – had had in three years.
It turned out that the thing we needed most was permission to be silly again; a release from the heaviness that these recent years have been. As crazy as it sounds, the simple joy of pretending to be a crab and, for a moment, not caring about anything else, was the perfect antidote to the fear and masks and insulation of the pandemic.
This summer was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, a phrase which, if I’m honest, I say basically every summer after camp ends. But the additional element of this summer was getting to help my campers – and me – remember and re-learn that silliness is a vital part of life. Sitting and talking with them was meaningful and special, running cool educational programming for them was exciting and interesting, but the most special parts of the summer were the times where all of us let go of our inhibitions and were just goofy. Being crabs, singing “Solidarity Forever” at the top of our lungs from our kayaks, or creating synchronized swimming routines in the pool, it all just felt so freeing.
Being a camp counselor is the hardest thing I have ever done. It requires late nights, constant emotional presence and endless amounts of energy and enthusiasm. The reward is that I get to hang out with incredible campers while we splash around in the pool, cheering and giggling and pretending – and that makes it all worthwhile.
It’s possible that I’m reading too much into a fun activity we ran for our kids. Maybe Crab Night wasn’t as profound as I’m making it out to be, but, for me, it epitomized the magic of this first full summer at Camp Miriam since the pandemic started. Small moments of silliness were what made it feel like a regular summer again. It felt like we had truly returned to camp’s essence: a space to be ourselves, to have fun and to connect with people who care about one another.
Shani Avrahami Saraf is a third-year student at the University of British Columbia and this was her 12th summer at Camp Miriam and her fourth summer as a camp counselor.