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Oct. 17th, 2009

Imagine a summer vacation in the Catskills. Crisp mountain air, a beautiful lake, total relaxation. For me going to the Catskills every July has become a reflex, swimming, family get-togethers, guests for Shabbat, absence of a TV, arts and crafts projects with my girls’ friends, reading, watching Russian movies downloaded during the school year, sunflower seeds and tea-time on the porch, waking up and staying up late, and, above all, spending time with my daughters. In other words, our Julys were very unlike the rest of the year. Last summer it all turned out differently. The air and the lake stayed the same, but I lost the relaxation privilege.

My older daughters decided to work as counselors at a bungalow colony day camp nearby, which involved me driving and picking them up. So, the morning started with waking up (not as early as during a school year, but early enough), making lunches, pushing breakfast, and, of course, being late which could be summarized in one word – stress.

My sister rented a bungalow a block away from us, and that’s where Mili, my youngest spent most of the day, with her cousins. She loved the day long play date which rarely happened at home. I too spent a lot of time with my sister, but soon realized that this arrangement would be perfect if I could somehow disconnect the TV cable and get the kids outside to, actually, breathe the mountain air. And, since, my three year old niece decided to prolong her toilet-training, they had an especially hard time getting ready for a seven minute drive to the lake beach. By the time we’d spread my sister’s numerous bags, coolers, chairs, toys, and blankets, I’d have very little time for a swim, never mind reading a book, or writing. I’d keep a watch on my cell phone waiting for my older daughters’ liberation moment.

And what a moment that would be! All five girls (in addition to mine, there was my cousin’s daughter and another girl) would make their way down the road dejected, irritated, and absolutely miserable. From the moment girls entered my car to their bedtime, they’d complain about their work, tell me boring stories of their three year old charges, of the kids’ mothers/grandmothers/nannies, they’d each recount their day for me, their conversations, observations, diaper changing disasters, and, of course, never forget to mention how much they hated working there. Tired and annoying, they’d sit on the porch or in their room till dinner time, gathering strength for a visit to my mother and grandfather two blocks away.

Friday, a short day at camp, brought some relief to our working class, not for me, obviously, because, I had to manage my pre-Shabbat errands in a much shorter timeframe.

Well, you get the idea. But, I am not complaining.

I managed to have fun last July. Our first day in White Lake, my husband and I decided to look for a wi-fi signal in the area. Long gone were the days of our first stays when we extended a phone cord through our landlady’s second story window to our veranda and dialed my husband’s work for the lifeline, the internet connection. So, we got into a car and he drove around the neighborhood very slowly, while I monitored the signals. It almost felt like something scientific, like one of his stories about measurements they took in south Jersey, among sand dunes and golf courses. Well, almost. Here we drove past Satmar ladies in sneakers power walking and talking in Yiddish, past Russian grandpas and grandmas in designer sports suits dragging their off-spring for a stroll and a breath of fresh mountain air, past luxurious lake front summer houses with marinas and private beaches, with no results. Turning towards my mom’s house I noticed a flickering of a possible signal which grew stronger as we got closer. After sitting in the car for some time, reading email and checking the news, we decided to move to the porch, even though, mom and grandpa were still in Brooklyn. Thus, I found a reprieve, and escape of sorts, where I could write in my livejournal, occasionally watch a Russian soap opera episode, or chat with a virtual friend.

August came much quicker than expected, with the usual “we’re bored” from the girls, but that would be another story.

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