By Hannah Berman


When my three oldest grandsons were very young, I accompanied my daughter and son-in-law on a trek up to “the mountains” on a miserably hot and humid Sunday which happened to be visiting day. I was not overly enthusiastic about the road trip on which we were about to embark, but my philosophy was, “How bad could it be?” All too soon, I found out.

My late husband, Arnie, who was always a step ahead of me in the brains department, had a different philosophy. His was this: the forecast for Sunday is hot and humid weather, and it will be miserable. As much as I love the kids, I’m not going.

I went, and all that long day my one enduring thought was that I should have listened to him! It turned out to be a mixed bag because there was bad news and there was good news. The bad news was that it was an awful day, but the good news was that I never went again. To sum it up, my debut was also my swan song!

Fast-forward a few years, and now the oldest of my grandchildren are young adults and the younger ones are teenagers who are no longer campers. They still go to summer camp, but now they are counselors-in-training or, as we call them, CITs. It is now Berman family lore that Savta does not ever come up on visiting day — not for anyone. My mantra since that one and only visiting day is that visiting day is for parents, not for grandparents. Nobody has ever again asked me to visit.

They have substituted that request with a new, three-word request: “Please send packages.” This may sound like a simple request, but it’s said with such emphasis that it’s really more of a command that is combined with a heartfelt plea. And the kids don’t stop at those three words. They follow it up with instructions about what they would like to receive. Apparently, it is some type of a contest between the kids to see who receives the biggest and best packages.

For a few years, I fell for this. I spent hours shopping and purchasing the things they asked for, along with other items I thought they would be happy to get, but I found it to be a big bother. It was a five-step process. Step one was to go to several stores in search of what they had said that they wanted. Step two was to procure small cartons and mailing labels. Step three was to come home loaded with the merchandise, dump it all on the kitchen table, and then begin the process of sorting it all out and determining what went to which kid. That done, step four was to seal the carton and then put the name of the grandchild along with the camp address and the bunk number on the labels and stick them onto the cartons. The final step, number five, was to get everything into the car and bring it all to the post office.

It was an exhausting sequence of events, but I got through it by reminding myself that it sure beat going up to visit.

But life just keeps getting better and better, and if one waits long enough there will be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. My gold came in the form of a phone call from one of my granddaughters when she called me from the bus on her way up to camp. At the sound of her voice I knew immediately that all was not right with her world. But since she had not even arrived at camp yet, I couldn’t imagine what might be wrong. I found out soon enough. It came out as more of a wail than a civilized statement.

“OMG, Savta, you won’t believe this! I’m on the bus right now and the bus counselor just made an announcement that packages are not allowed. You can’t send me anything!”

At these words, my heart began to sing! It was better than winning the lottery. But, as my granddaughter’s disappointment was so genuine, I went into my loving, grandmotherly mode. At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, I must say that I played the game well and gave an Oscar-worthy performance by saying all the right things.

“Ohhh, what a shame. That’s such a disappointment. There were so many great things I planned to send to you. I’m so sorry, sweetie.”

This took a great deal of self-control because all the while I had to keep my composure and stop myself from erupting into a giggle.

That done, I said my goodbyes, hung up the phone, and went outside to my car. There would be no time-consuming five-step process. Instead, I was free to go wherever I wanted to go and do whatever I wanted to do! But before I got into my car, I lost some of my self-control and, not caring about whether anyone might be watching me, I did a horah before getting into my car!

That was last week, but my relief has not abated. So overjoyed am I that I’m seriously considering the idea of sending thank-you notes and love letters to the camp director and his staff who voted against allowing campers and CITs to receive packages. It’s only mid-July and things might get even better, but so far this news has been the highlight of my summer. That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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