By Ann Abramson
By Ann Abramson
If you could see my face right now, you’d see the huge smile I have as I reflect on my experience at Pearlstone’s very first Gramp Camp. In my pre-Gramp Camp blog, all I could do was set my expectations and get excited. Now, I’m happy to tell you all that not only were my expectations met, they were absolutely exceeded.
From the moment we arrived, we were greeted with such a warm and embracing camp feeling. The children immediately felt the same loving embrace. Upon checking in, the children were very excited to unpack and explore the room to claim their own spaces and sleeping spots.
My husband and I got great delight in seeing how comfortable they became so quickly. When we emerged into the first group activity, the kids instantly gravitated to the relay races so they could find familiar faces and begin connecting with other children. At the same time, the grandparents had an opportunity to meet, share their hopes for the week, and, of course, play “Jewish Geography.” It was amazing how many different places people came from and how far they travelled to come to Pearlstone.
After our settling in process, we accompanied our grandkids on an exploratory farm scavenger hunt so we could all absorb the beauty and spirituality of the farming experience at Pearlstone. It was delightful to watch our grandchildren run through the fields and gardens smelling and tasting herbs and vegetables.
It brought back memories from my own summer camp experience, and I instantly felt younger again.
It was a great segue to our first meal together; a lunch with farm-grown delicacies followed by singing that accompanied the end of every meal. Live guitars, winds, horns and percussion original catchy lyrics and the grandchildren grabbing a drum or tambourine to support the music and glance at the posted lyrics held high so everyone could see and learn the words.
My grandchildren felt the ruach. We were drawn in by the lively scene of the music and feelings of togetherness, especially when we started dancing around the dining room. It brought back memories from my own summer camp experience, and I instantly felt younger again.
My grandchildren and I especially loved the creating seed balls that we will be able to plant in our gardens next spring. We’ll watch the seeds sown at Gramp Camp rise and bloom.
And the zip line! Wow! It was so thrilling to watch our grandchildren flying through the zip line, some for the first time and others veteran “zippers.” My smallest granddaughter had great trepidation about trying this new activity, but after much encouragement from the grandchildren around her, she rose above her trepidations and decided to give it a try.
The glee and on her face after completing the run will last in our memories (and hers) forever. It was such a freedom moment for her to try something a bit scary and different and to experience a sense of pride and success. I’m sure that next year she will be the first in line to do it again!
By far, the best activity, we all agreed, was the “chop-chop” experience when teams of grandchildren and grandparents worked together to gather food from the fields, prepare a meal, create beautiful plated presentations and serve them to the judges. The excitement in the children’s eyes about their creations and sharing it with the judges and the other teams was incredible.
When the judges awarded a prize to each team for the different categories, the groups screamed and sang with such feelings of accomplishment and connections to each other and to the other teams. A wonderful group experience for all.
There were storytelling times for the kids and storytelling workshops for the grandparents. In the grandparent workshops, we were taught how to share a story with our grandchildren about ourselves that they might not have ever heard before. We then shared the story quietly with our grandchildren, and I could feel their thrill to learn something new about their grandparents.
As the time came to a close, the kids felt that it was such a wonderful experience and that it was way too short. The grandparents, too, found new bonds that led to sharing of generational stories. The love and laughter would continue. With hugs and promises to return next year, both generations felt enriched, thrilled, sad and, of course, a bit exhausted. Such an extraordinary experience for one and all!
Save the date, June 30 – July 1 for Gramp Camp 2020 at Pearlstone! Many thanks to the Jewish Grandparents Network and The Associated for helping to make this life-changing program possible!
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