I worked for part or all of 13 summers at Camp Ramah in New England. For those years, Ramah was home for me. They are treasured memories and I think about those summers very often. The other day, I thought of one aspect of camp life I hadn’t thought of for a long time.
It was the custom at Ramah that each bunk would invite someone to come in to the bunk at night when the kids were in bed to tell a story, discuss something with them, sing songs, tell jokes- whatever, just to quiet the kids down so that they could fall asleep. The truth is that the majority of the younger kids would fall asleep before the story or song was even half finished and the older ones would be up long after the guest left. But, it was such an important part of the day and one of my favorite parts of camp. I looked forward to being invited in and I had a repertoire of stories, discussion topics and games I used depending on the age group.
One of my favorite things to do was to read the kids one of my favorite short stories. The story is called Kaleidoscope and in it, astronauts who have survived the explosion of their space ship are floating away from each other through space headed for a certain death. Their final conversation with each other is marked with anger and pettiness until one of the astronauts realizes he has floated out of radio range of the others and is aimed for the earths atmosphere where he will burn up. He realizes his life has been full of disappointment and wishes something would happen which would make his last moments worthwhile in some way in the world.
The story has a great ending and I won’t ruin it for you. You can find the story all over the internet. Just do a search for Kaleidoscope but make sure you include the author’s name.
The author of this great story died this week and while I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on all of his stories, I remember many of them and realize what a visionary and a tremendous talent he was.
If you haven’t read any Ray Bradbury stories, start with Kaleidoscope and go on from there.
By the way, this was one story the kids managed to stay up for. And the ending always was a wonderful surprise.