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Summer of ’63: spiders, songs … and a boy

Marsha Drozdoff
Marsha Drozdoff

It was the summer of 1963 and I was 10 going on 11. I had never attended camp before. My Auntie E worked for the Jewish Federation in New York and had discussed with my parents sending me to the Hebrew Education Society’s two-week camp with her daughter (and my cousin) Michelle.

Michelle was two years older and at that age, two years is almost a lifetime. She was self-confident, bold, a dancer, wore a bra and of course already had been menstruating. So, there I was: shy, just on the cusp of puberty and still in an undershirt!

This was the summertime of swimming in the lake, singing Jewish songs like “David Melech Yisrael,” running away from daddy long leg spiders … and meeting Joel. It was the summer of the twist and one evening after dinner there was a dance competition. Joel was one of the older boys, maybe 13 or 14. I was shocked when he walked over to me and chose me as his partner. He had never even said hello to me before.

Joel and I danced until my side hurt, and then we danced some more. We continued to dance until one couple after another was eliminated. I can’t recall if we were first runners-up or the actual winners. Although that was exciting enough, that wasn’t what took my breath away. It was that kiss; by the end of the evening under the umbrella of the upstate New York stars and sky, Joel kissed me!