This past weekend, I drove several hours in pouring rain and awful traffic to:

  • Drink terrible coffee
  • Sleep in a bunkhouse on a cruddy mattress, on rented linens, with all my kids
  • Eat in a cafeteria
  • Walk around giant mud puddles
  • Pray with siddurs that have definitely seen better days
  • Sit on couches that are uncomfortable and impossible to get up from

And I am so very grateful.

Over the past year, I have read some wonderful memoirs:

  • “Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved” by Kate Bowler
  • “My Glory Was I Had Such Friends: A Memoir” by Amy Silverstein
  • “The Book of Separation: A Memoir” by Tova Mirvis
  • “The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying” by Nina Riggs
  • “Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage” by Dani Shapiro
  • “The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart” by Emily Nunn
  • “To Siri with Love: A Mother, Her Autistic Son, and the Kindness of Machines” by Judith Newman
  • “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” by Roxane Gay
  • “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” by Sheryl Sandberg

All in search of someone who understood, got me, knew how I felt and could put it into words for everyone to read.

Four years ago, a friend told us about the Tikvah Family Shabbaton at Camp Ramah of New England for families with special needs. We went assuming it would be a disaster, but it changed our family and our world in the best ways possible. I wrote about it and the wonderful sibling workshops back then here.

We are lucky and have good people and places in our lives. Places where we feel accepted as a Jewish family, as a special needs family, as a three-kid family and all the other pigeonholes we fit into. This is the only place where we truly fit in completely.

Since then, we have attended many more of these special weekends, kept in touch with the other families and staff, organized more workshops for siblings at our temple and sent two of our three children to summer camp there year after year. We choose this camp for our children because of the camp’s strong commitment to inclusion. They were including campers with special needs back in the 1970s and continue to do so year after year.

The weekend is filled with families like mine and staff who are dedicated and caring. Parents and siblings who understand our life without any explanations needed. We have wonderful family and friends but there is no substitution for what we find there. There were workshops, prayers, informal chats, meals, activities for ALL the kids—and a community of our peers, our people, our tribe.

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