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We’re driving downtown in the December cold to celebrate, once again, my husband’s birthday. The four of us are going out to dinner in celebration, now including a wonderful girlfriend we’re happy to have join us.

Matt and Michelle met us at our house so they could ride with us in Frank’s Acadia-for-seven; easier for us to park one car during the holiday-madness downtown than two cars. Day-to-day, the Acadia is now too big for Frank and me. It worked, long ago, for taking two sons and friends skiing, to soccer practice, and packed full to summer camps in Rangeley.

Now, it’s mostly empty.

When it’s full, especially when Matt’s in it, there is lots of conversation. I’m not sure how Center Day Camp came up, out of the blue, on our ride downtown.

But it did.

Matt’s arrived at the age where now he remembers things of his past…and we are the lucky ones, that he shares them with us – albeit selectively, I’m sure. They’re often funny stories of things we had no idea, as parents, he was doing as a kid or teenager!

Neighbors told me about Center Day Camp at a time when my kids were in late elementary school and managing summer was becoming ever more difficult for two full-time working parents. I looked into it.

Did my due diligence.

It looked good for swimming, boating, arts + crafts, camaraderie on Sebago Lake, owned by the Jewish Community Alliance.

So, I sent Matt alone the first summer.

I never worried about Matt.

Despite what he might have felt inside, outwardly, he always got along. Anywhere. With anyone. When he was young.

First year went ok.

I never heard otherwise.

So, the second summer, I sent Matt and little brother (shy brother) Ben.

Ben wasn’t as easy as his older brother. He wasn’t acclimating smoothly. The ride to Center Day Camp in Standish was too long, the separation from us too far. For him, it was unnerving.

I raised my sons Catholic. (That is a story for another time.)

The point for this story is for all Matt’s natural wondering and pondering and questioning….being sent to a Jewish summer camp was confusing, causing consternation. But we didn’t know it. He never told us….until he was an adult.

Now the topic comes up from time to time.

And this December, what we learned was that at the end of their day at the camp, as they passed around challah and did what Matt believed, at the time, to be a Jewish cult sort of mantra, Matt told us he looked little Ben in the eye from across the circle. He said to the camp counselor, “I’m taking Ben’s.”

Ben nodded at him. Knowing somehow.

At his young age, he got it that his older brother was taking one for the team; looking out for him.

Matt ate both his challah and Ben’s…thinking it was going to turn him Jewish.

Not that he had ever heard anything negative about being Jewish – but it was simply something foreign that we hadn’t properly explained. It was unknown to a boy who was a deep thinker who took everything consciously and seriously.

To think that older brother, in his naiveté, was sacrificing for his little brother, having no idea what he was doing…..

….well, isn’t that something?

Isn’t that the epitome of sibling love?

Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

To learn of it now, over a dozen years later, is wonderful.

We are reminded at how innocent and naïve children’s minds are.

As parents, we can’t for a minute think we know what they’re thinking.

And can’t for a minute know the little heroes they are….each and every day in their ordinary lives. And for one another.

Photo: Macetes de Mae from Pinterest

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