I have this recurring dream in which I realize that, for some ungodly reason, I have committed to being a counselor at my childhood sleepover camp. Me and the seventeen-year-olds. Apparently, I still have unresolved issues about my stint as a camper (1982–86) and, subsequently, as a counselor (1989–90).
Back then, the highlights of my summer were nights off spent drinking to get drunk on margaritas at Earl’s in Kelowna and winning the mini Maccabiah games — a Zionist camp’s answer to the colour wars; I wrote the team song each year, Jewish-themed lyrics to classic tunes such as the theme songs to Fame or Cheers or “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” (“Our team is tzedakah — charity — that’s what we stand for; We make the world a better place by helping out the poor...”). Not to mention the drama that breeds in a closed society where teenagers are mostly left to govern themselves.
But, twenty years later, I have other commitments. In my dream, I try to explain this to the camp directors, but they are curiously unresponsive to my plight. I explain to them that I have clients; that I really cannot afford to earn just $800 for nine weeks of work; that I don’t remember applying; that the idea of spending a summer taking care of other people’s children with a bunch of horny, self-absorbed teenagers as my closest colleagues was just not what I had in mind. And besides, as always happens in these dreams, I have no luggage.
Somehow, it never seems possible (maybe because I have no wallet? no access to a phone?) to simply, politely, explain that there must be some sort of mistake and quit. Instead, I plead with the powers that be in the dream to release me from my apparent obligations to them. Which they never do. But last night, last night in my dream, I suddenly slapped myself on the forehead and said, “My God! I have two little children! I have a baby! I can't leave them for nine weeks! I have to go right now!”
And the powers that be said, “Oh, okay.”