Oh when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah, I'd “never” wanna be there
Those were the “worst” days of my life
I was in fourth grade. I was 9 years old. I was a young, cute, and innocent boy. I had curly red hair with a face that was full of freckles (I call then sprinkles). I was full of energy and life. I loved to laugh, smile, and have fun. I liked to make people laugh and smile as well. My soul was free, uninhibited, and innocent...Oh, how I wish that I could still feel the same way today.
I loved sports. Watching sports is fun and all, but there’s nothing like playing sports, especially when you’re really good at it. One of the keys to being a popular kid in Yeshiva is to be good at sports. Everyone likes the guy that excells at sports. If you are good at sports than you are considered cool. For me, my favorite sport was, and always will be, football. I also enjoyed playing baseball, basketball, and hockey etc…
One Shabbos afternoon I was sitting in the living room with my parents when they showed me an advertisement in the Jewish Press. The advertisement was about a new sleep away camp that was opening up that summer. My parents asked me if I would be interested in going away for a month to this new exciting sleep away camp. I had never been away from home. I was scared. I told them that I would talk it over with my friends in school.
That week a few of my friends and I decided that we would be brave and go to sleep away camp. We would all be in the same bunk in this new camp. For me, although I was scared to leave home, the ability to play sports all day was a dream come true. It was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. I was very excited...I’m sure many of you can relate to that feeling of excitement that you feel when you’re about to go to summer camp – where it’s all about fun and games – for the very first time !!! Little did I know that my decision to go to camp would change my life forever!
I was only 9 years old. In June, I graduated the fourth grade and went on the bus to sleep away camp. Looking back at my first summer of camp – I don’t remember much. But what I do remember was that my athletic abilities and charm caught the eye of one “strange” counselor.
He was the most popular counselor in camp. When color war time came around, it was only natural that he was one of the Generals. He was always the referee of all the sporting games too. He was the guy who was in control, and to get to know him, and be friends with him, was the greatest honor a camper could ever wish for. So when he introduced himself to me – I was ecstatic. The cool counselor likes me. Not only that but he gives me free candy. He also promised me that if I hang out with him he’ll start giving me piggy-back rides and start taking me on trips to places where no one else goes. But, there was one condition. It had to be a secret. No one can know about our private, special, intimate relationship.
He made me one more promise. He knew how competitive I was on the sports field. He knew how much winning meant to me. He told me that he would referee my league games and that if I was in trouble, and my team was losing (on those rear occasions) he would cheat for me and make sure my team would win. An offer that I just couldn’t refuse. So, we became friends. We had a relationship. A relationship that would destroy every future relationship that I would have for the rest of my life, to date.
Even as a nine year old, I sensed that there was something very wrong. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but something just didn’t feel right. It felt very weird whenever he would give me a piggy-back ride. Piggy-back rides are supposed to be fun. I can remember on Simchas Torah my father putting me on his shoulders and dancing with me and the Torah. That was so much fun. But somehow with this man, it just wasn’t the same. He seemed to be doing it for himself. He seemed to be getting more pleasure out of it than me. Why was his body positioned in a way that he could feel certain parts of my body that were supposed to be private? Why do I feel like I am being violated?
The answer, to me, was obvious. I am a little kid and he is a mature adult – so obviously he knows what’s right and I don’t. If I think what’s going on is somehow wrong that’s because I’m only a kid and am unable to understand the true good that this adult is bestowing upon me. He is right, I am wrong.
But this still made no sense to me. What is going on, I don’t understand? Somebody please help me? I’m really scared now. Where’s my Mommy and Daddy? Why did they send me away to sleep away camp? Why is this cool counselor making me feel so uncomfortable and embarrassed? Why does our relationship have to be a secret?
My life was beginning to change. Light was beginning to turn into darkness. My childhood was ending, even though I was only 9. Confusion began to creep into my young soul. Something is wrong and there’s no one to help me…