by Lily Kruskal Leahy
The year was 1988 and I was very excited to be at CDSS’s Family Week at Pinewoods in Massschusetts, especially excited to be in the 8-9 year old longsword class, taught by Andy Horton. I had watched these “big kids” perform longsword for four years and finally it was my turn! I left Family Week that year as I always did—an exhausted bundle of emotions. I was brimming with excitement for all the new things I had learned and sad for leaving so much behind. But memories always came away with me.
I spent 14 years going to Family Week, from age 4 to 18, and it was by far the highlight of my year. It was only one week but it seemed to last much longer than seven days and it gave me memories and happiness to last a whole year. With enough of those years put together I was given an amazing gift of memories, traditions and values that have lasted a lifetime. The things I learned at Family Week and the friends I made have withstood the test of time. I attribute much of who I am today to how I was brought up into the dance community—Family Week playing a huge part of that. Even my professional interests involve teaching traditional folk song and dance to children.
Knowing the impact it had on my life, after my first daughter was born I started wondering how early could I bring her to Family Week. I decided that four, the same year I started, was the right age. It was for this reason that I was so excited to return to Family Week at Pinewoods last summer for the first time in 14 years. Not only with my two children and husband but also with my parents. I was lucky enough to have been hired on staff to teach none other than longsword to the 8-9 year olds–one of my very favorite classes from when I was a child. We had a fantastic time and were excited when I got hired again to teach this summer—this time at CDSS’s Family Week at Ogontz in New Hampshire—a new experience for us.
I won’t lie that I wasn’t a bit nervous about going to a new place. In accepting the job it meant that we wouldn’t be heading to Pinewoods this summer, the first year in my entire life that I hadn’t been to this camp (the years I wasn’t at Family Week–both the years prior to turning 4 and the interim years between 18 and present–I had always gone to some session or other at Pinewoods). Of course the nerves were all for naught. What I realized is that although the place was not the same (and to be honest, I did miss Pinewoods the place), the sentiment was. The traditions, people, culture, material, was all the same. There are very few places in life where the old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child” hold true. But this summer at Ogontz I watched it unfold before my eyes. My children ran free. They were looked after by other parents, grandparents, and older children, and dear friends old and new. They sang and danced to their hearts content, being encouraged by everyone around them. In the first few days I had a hard time convincing my eldest to get out on the dance floor with me. By the end of the week she was do-si-doing with the best of them, mainly because the older girls, who she greatly looked up to, were her partners.
My girls haven’t stopped talking about Ogontz since we left, and are already getting excited about next year. If I can somehow give them even a small piece of what my own parents gave me, in bringing me into a world of music and dance, then I will have achieved something very unique and special. If you have one place, and even just one week a year that gives you memories to last a lifetime then that is a great gift. I’d like to thank my Mom and Dad, for giving me that gift and it is my real hope, to be able to pass it along to my own children.
This is Lily’s second blog for CDSS; Walking Into My Past was published last month.