A humiliating first day, taking it outside for a showdown behind the bunk, the first stirrings of an urge for aliyah: readers’ stories of summer camp—and illustrations inspired by them
Two weeks ago, we asked Tablet Magazine’s readers to share their most memorable summer camp stories, promising to select our favorites and ask illustrator extraordinaire Liana Finck to contribute an artwork inspired by each story. Here are our top three selections, accompanied by Liana’s illustrations.
On the Bus
by Jordana Horn, Camp Eisner
I first went at age 10. I was the rookie who made the mistake of packing books (to read for fun!) rather than eyeliner or bras. I should have shown up at the bus wearing a shirt that said “Pariah.”
I drove to the New York City street corner where the bus would pick us up with my parents. I was very nervous, knowing no one, and was trying not to cry. My parents told me to go put my stuff on the bus and then I’d come off and say goodbye to them. I got on the bus and put my bag down on a seat. I went back to the front of the bus.
“No one gets off the bus once they’re on the bus,” the head counselor said, in a weird riff on Ken Kesey‘s “Either you’re on the bus or you’re off the bus.”
“But I didn’t know that rule.”
“Now you do,” he said, and went back to looking at his clipboard.
My parents protested, but it was no use. The head counselor, Hitler-in-training, wouldn’t budge: I was on the bus. I sat in my seat, looking out the window at my parents on the sidewalk. I was trying my best not to cry like a baby. But snot was coming down my face. It wasn’t working out. These people were assholes. This was a huge mistake.
I thought things couldn’t get any worse. But they could. At that second, the loose tooth I’d been wiggling for weeks decided to come out, emerging with a geyser of blood. With snot and blood coming down my face, I went to the counselor to beseech him if not for mercy then at least for a tissue. “I told you, sit down,” he said before I even opened my mouth.
I went back to my seat, bawling, blood cascading over my lips and chin and onto my shirt (which, I guess, was as good as wearing a shirt that said “pariah” after all).
Needless to say, no one sat with me. The bus doors closed, and we were on our way.
I have conflicted feelings toward Israel, but I love my daughter’s progressive, tolerant, anti-bullying, anti-materialist—and, yes, Zionist—summer camp