Every summer for the past few years, the texts start flying in early August between our group of about six couples. We agree on a Sunday in August, set a time, and we all try to come not more than a fashionable hour or two late. We come from Woodmere, East Brunswick, Jamaica Estates, Teaneck and Bergenfield and gather at a beautiful home here with a nice backyard and pool, with some of our children in tow, usually our younger ones, although the older ones do show up occasionally. We sit in the backyard or dining room, depending on the weather, and enjoy a wonderful barbecue meal together, sitting for hours and hours until late.
We talk and talk for hours. We talk about our kids, their achievements, their interests, their personalities. We talk about their camp experiences and how things were in our days back in camps like Morasha, HASC, Avraham Chaim Heller, Munk, Eagle Day Camp, etc.
We talk and talk about our kids and their struggles and achievements—they are always a ready source of conversation. We talk about bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs being planned or in the past—although no weddings or engagements yet… hopefully soon, though.
We talk about our kids’ schools/yeshivot and how different it was back in our days, and how we have far more sympathy for our own parents today. We talk about the choices our kids are making and how different their lives are from ours. A familiar refrain and theme for us is that things have really changed in the past few decades. Careers, schools, even camps have all changed, hopefully all for the better, we like to think, even if we aren’t always sure that this is so.
We talk about our jobs and professions and share some of the challenges we’ve faced in the constantly changing local economy. We talk about exercise and running and the accompanying injuries and surgeries we’ve all collected from these self-same exercises and sports or lack thereof.
But mostly, we like to reminisce about old times. Four of us have known each other since our pre-school days in Queens and our shared elementary school in Kew Gardens—Yeshiva Tiferes Moshe (YTM)—and our old times go pretty far back. We talk about ruler fights and gang wars in the third grade, punch ball games, Kosher Little League championships, and legendary catches and moments of triumph.
We talk about our “Tif Mo” teachers such as Mr. Brodsky, Mr. Skolnick, Rabbi Sher, Rabbi Brody, Rabbi Schweitzman and Rabbi Hauben and enjoy talking about old classmates and neighbors and get caught up a bit on their lives—if we have been keeping track of them through coordinated Facebook searches and LinkedIn research, or seeing these old faces every decade or so.
We love to talk about our high school, Israel yeshiva, and YU days and on into our 20s, with our famous “stories” such as the near-impossible doubles tennis shot that ended badly, the fabled “bris” story where a father finds out at his own son’s bris that he himself needs another bris. That last one is told with much laughter and amusement...you have to hear it told by our friend Dr. Josh Segal of East Brunswick...and he wasn’t even there when it happened. We are usually rolling on the floor laughing when he retells this one. Our wives—who didn’t know each other until their college days, mostly know all of the main stories by now, and can recite most of them on their own, sometimes better than we can.
Of course, we also poke fun at each other and like to remind each other about past mishaps and small failures, but we know not to go too far or push too hard. We are all comfortable with each other and that is a real blessing. There are no old grudges or hurts or slights that I am aware of in our group..or if there are, we have long forgotten them.
Throughout my early adulthood years into my 30s, I always nurtured the dream and hope that if I could afford to rent my own vacation place or hotel and be able to host and invite, for a weekend or a Shabbos, all of my childhood and school and yeshiva friends and their families, I would do it. I thought it would be so nice just to be with people I know well and truly like and respect, and spend some time together keeping our relationships strong and perhaps generating new stories and memories for us to tell over and share. I liked the idea that our families would also be friends into the next generation, if possible.
Although the idea of being able to host an extended vacation or Shabbos with all my old friends remains mostly out of reach, for a few hours every summer, on a Sunday evening in August, we live that dream and touch and taste it...and talk together...hopefully for many years to come.
Dedicated to the Wiederkehrs, the Orlows, the Jacobys, the Segals, the Pauls and the Hechts. See you all next August!
By Moshe Kinderlehrer