Coming off of the high that was Make The Magic, I thought it might be hard to top but once again, the Kesem love outdid itself and went above and beyond at retreat. Everyone jokes about how “awkward” they feel at the first few meetings each spring: newbies are afraid to talk to anyone, returners feel weird talking to newbs, and committee is almost overly friendly to compensate for any tension. It’s not that the Kesem love isn’t at these first few meetings yet, it just hasn’t been fully realized through the bonding process of shared Kesem magic that always happens at retreat.
It may sound cheesy, but the day could not have been more perfect. Even at the (far too early?) meet-up time of precisely 8:37 a.m. in Ackerman turnaround, the sun was radiating warm and friendly rays, a foreshadowing of the exultance to come in the next twenty-four hours. Tired counselors milled around until our car assignments were read, and we were off. In my personal opinion, the car ride may be one of the most fun parts of retreat. You are paired with about 4-5 other people and usually know only one person at the beginning of the ride and in the short hour and a half it takes to get to retreat, you have three new, amazing friends. Part of the reason this car bonding is so quick may be because each group is assigned to make up an introduction song by the time we arrive at retreat location. Let me tell you- there is never a lack of ridiculousness or wittiness with these skits and songs (just another reaffirmation of why we picked each and every counselor), and as we arrived at the beautiful Laguna Niguel beachfront this was in full force. After setting the mood for a goofy and carefree day to follow, we went straight into “speed dating,” wherein counselors rotate in two circles and chat with one another about random topics for about 2 minutes each. This is always a fun way to learn names and random facts about each other that will invariably never leave your minds (you’ll always remember that counselor X has a paralyzing fear of cats).
This game was quickly segued into a myriad of fun and fast-paced beach activities, like the meltdown carnival, birdie on a perch, tie-dying tanks, 2 minute life stories, camp songs, and the “step forward” game. The whole rest of the afternoon was a blur of both serious and silly sentiments, a Kesem trademark. Perhaps the funniest part of our beach shenanigans was that people would stop and just watch whatever activity we were doing, even film or take pictures of us, especially when Gumby led an extremely loud and goofy version of the “Oomba Oomba” song. Some random strangers even asked why we were there, and amidst scrounging around the beach for 19 pennies or blowing up beach balls, we were able to share our cause and story with others. Shortly after an extremely rare ocean rendition of the camp song “Penguins Attention,” the sun dropped below the horizon and we headed off to dinner at a retro 50’s diner called Ruby’s. The camaraderie was tangible, even stronger that just a few hours earlier. After our stomachs were happily full of hamburgers and milkshakes, the mood began to mellow as we ventured off to our overnight houses. Once we arrived at the quaint golf course lodging, we all gathered in a room and did a relaxing meditation period, letting our minds calm down from the festivities of the day and wander to an open, free space. We then answered some personal questions on paper like what our greatest fears were, continuing to let our thoughts spill out onto the paper. This spilled over perfectly into our first cabin chat, with each group having half new and half returning counselors, taking the personal questions to a group setting. I was thoroughly impressed with how open and supportive my group was, sensing the Kesem magic seeping into the room with each new shared story. It would only seem appropriate after all of the bonding throughout the day to welcome the new counselors officially into the Kesem family through initiation. After all was said and done for the day, moon and stars scattered across the sky like a protective blanket overhead, standing arm-in-arm in a circle with 70 new best friends felt like the only place I wanted to be in the world.
“You filled my cup ‘til it overflowed; ‘til it overflowed with love.”