As I described a couple weeks ago in this column (“Visiting Day, Revisited,” July 19,) the experience I had during a camp visiting day many years ago was so miserable that I refused to be drawn into another such excursion when the next visiting day rolled around. I knew that I wouldn’t go again, but I had not anticipated that I would feel guilty about it.
On the second visiting day of that summer, guilt set in at about 10 a.m. To assuage these feelings of guilt, I decided that the best remedy was to remember how miserable I had been the first time I went. And the best way to remember it would be to attempt to recreate the experiences of that other time.
There was no way to recreate the feeling of motion while sitting in a cramped car space and serving food to the youngsters with whom I was traveling. But there were some things that I could do. Remembering that first car ride, I eschewed a sharp bread knife and instead sliced bagels in half using a plastic knife just as I’d done that other time. My next move was to spread tuna fish, egg salad, and cream cheese onto the bagels. It was a messy job considering that bagels have holes. Then I took a few of the small juice boxes and chocolate milk boxes that I always kept in my house for grandchildren and plunged the attached pointy little straw into the foil opening located on the top of each box. I made sure to do all of this while seated. The only aspect of the original car ride experience that I refused to replicate was to wear a nice skirt. Instead, I wore a caftan that was something of a schmatte. By the time I finished, the caftan was covered in food and drink. My plan was working so far because I was already feeling a lot less guilty about not making the trip.
After recreating the sandwich-making and the opening of juice boxes, I progressed to trying to experience what the visit itself was like once we had arrived at the camp. First, I forced myself to sit in a cramped spot without moving for an hour. It wasn’t easy because I was tempted to get up and move around, but I did not. Reluctantly, despite the fact that the outside temperature hovered in the high eighties and the humidity was over ninety percent, I had turned off the air conditioning. It didn’t take long before it became uncomfortably warm, and half an hour later I was flat-out hot! This closely paralleled what I had felt when we arrived at the campgrounds and I was forced to exit the car along with the others. As before, it took time for me to get the kinks out and stand upright. Remembering clearly how I had walked across several fields that had multiple indentations, which was like traversing an obstacle course, I had set up a similar scene in my house by placing small objects several feet apart all over the floor so that, as I walked, I would be forced to keep my head down to avoid them just as I had done at camp.
The house grew hotter with every passing minute and that was when I remembered the hills that I had been forced to climb when visiting the bunks. My house doesn’t have any hills in it, but where there is a will there is a way! I used stairs to simulate hills. I walked up and down the stairs a dozen or more times and before long I was not only shvitzing, I was also totally out of breath, just as I had been on visiting day. My feelings of guilt were swiftly abating. But I wasn’t yet done trying to recapture what I went through.
On that visiting day, trying, as always, to keep my caloric intake as low as possible, I had decided to forgo a bagel and instead had prepared for myself a tuna-fish sandwich. I did the same thing as I attempted to simulate that day. After wrapping the sandwich in tin foil, I took it out to my driveway and left it out in the blazing sun. To be sure it resembled that other sandwich, I placed a brick on top of it. At lunchtime I retrieved the sad looking little meal, unwrapped it, and took a single bite. And just as I had that other day, I gagged and then tossed it in the garbage.
There was little else I could have done to simulate visiting day, but I had accomplished my objective because not a shred of guilt remained and I was delighted that I had elected to stay home. Skipping visiting day number two was a good decision, and figuring out how to get rid of the guilt was an even better one. Visiting day is suitable for parents but not for this grandparent. 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 Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435.