Summer camp friendship leads to a lifetime of love

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Mimi and Marc Sager celebrated their 18th wedding anniversary in Jackson Hole, WY last summer.

When Marc first called to ask me to dinner, I didn't know what to expect. Was it a date? An attempt to reconnect and rejuvenate our friendship? We had seen each other a few weeks before at Café Lalo on New York's Upper West Side.

But that wasn't the first time we met.

That lucky encounter came 10 years earlier when we both had just entered adolescence, spending our summers on the green landscape of Jewish summer camp in Wisconsin's North Woods. Back then, he wore glasses and sported braces. I was growing out my late '80s bangs and had yet to discover eyebrow waxing. Still, Marc always made me laugh, and memories of us hooking arms and throwing our heads back in hysterics rushed back to me as we spoke on the phone that December day, only weeks before the new century began.

By the time we finished dinner at a neighborhood Italian restaurant a few nights later, I had a feeling friendship wasn't the path we would be taking. However, I wanted to play it cool. I called to thank him just before heading to the airport to meet up with my extended family for our annual Florida get together.

"You're going to marry him," my cousin said to me, as we all gathered for dinner on the eve of Y2K.

"How do you know? All we did was have dinner," I replied, somewhat incredulous at her suggestion. My cousins and brother had all attended the same camp, so Marc was no stranger to this crowd.

"You know, he was my counselor," my brother piped up.

"Wait, was he the counselor who was there for you when Papa died?" my father asked, remembering the young man that had comforted his son the summer our grandfather succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease.

That's the thing about Jewish camp. No matter the actual experience, whether you loved camp like Marc, or felt more lukewarm about it as I did, the connections you made were lifelong. 

For our second date, Marc made me Shabbat dinner, and I learned that his father was a rabbi. It's funny how as much as we learn about people at camp, they don't have to share the details they would rather leave back home. At camp, he didn't have to be the rabbi's son. He could just be Marc, a kid who loved basketball and all other sports. A kid who cracked jokes and was beloved by campers and counselors alike. Summer is short, but it's intense, and my memories of our shared experiences at camp infused our growing relationship in Manhattan as it went from dating, to boyfriend and girlfriend, to a marriage proposal 10 months after that first dinner date.

By modern day standards, our courtship was quick, but the foundation of Jewish camp that we brought to our relationship gave us a strong base upon which to build our love. We understood from the start that we shared similar values and wanted Judaism to be a central force in our lives.

Rabbi Maurice Lamm writes when Jews marry, they enter "the world of the Jewish community, of concern for the survival of the Jewish people, and of care and responsibility for total strangers." 

Jewish summer camp teaches the young people in its midst all these aspects of Judaism, a dress rehearsal of sorts for Rabbi Lamm's description of marriage. How was I to know back then that my beshert was with me the whole time, waiting in the wings? Now 18 years and four kids into this show, I feel fortunate to be sharing it with someone who was handed the same script for life.

Sager Yoskowitz is a Chicago-area freelance writer, mother of four, and former CNN producer. Her work has been featured on various sites including Kveller, Brain, Child Magazine, and in the anthology, "So Glad They Told Me." Connect with her at mimisager.com.




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