My boys’ high school loves t-shirts. To be more accurate, the kids love collecting t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other clothing items with the name of their school, Sussya. But the items aren’t just sold in a school store for the taking; rather they are earned. The school is built around a four-year program of classroom and outdoor learning. Every Friday they hike in a different location, learning about the geography, geology, history, Jewish historical connection, etc. of that locale. A few times a year, they have a one-night camping experience and then twice a year each grade goes on a one week hike. With each of these overnight experiences comes a new t-shirt or sweatshirt. The color and unique drawing on the back of the item indicates which hike or experience you accomplished – and the kids can easily identify their classmates from many meters away (heck, we can identify the kids all over the country).
The kids basically live in these shirts. It’s a rare experience to find any of my Sussya boys donning anything but their Sussya apparel, even long after they’ve moved on to other adventures.
The clothing items are such a part of the Sussya experience that at my oldest son’s graduation, they had the 24 shirts the kids earned displayed around the graduation grounds. I brought Matan a white button down shirt to wear to his graduation, and he just gently smiled at me and said, “Mommy, we’re all wearing the white Sussya t-shirt.” Well, duh.
A few weeks ago, my 9th grade Sussya son finally got delivery of the shirts he had ordered pre-COVID. And he came into my room with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Mommy, this is for you.”
It’s funny how a baseball hat can make you tear up.
The front of the hat was a typical Sussya creation, with the school name and references to my son’s year. On the back, however, it says Sussmaneet. The kids at Sussya (and probably at many other places around the world) call each other almost exclusively by their last names. So Amichai is Sussman (just as his older brothers are…very confusing!). The “-eet” is a feminine slang term of endearment.
At first, I felt funny taking the hat. Wearing the Sussya emblem is only, after all, for someone who has earned it; for someone who has finished the hike or the overnight or the grueling week of exploring.
But then I thought of the 9 total years my kids have, so far, spent at the school (with many more to come); the thousands of kilometers I’ve driven getting kids to and from Sussya for school and basketball games; the hundreds of loads of laundry I’ve done getting them ready to go out on Sunday mornings or after they’ve returned on Friday; the excitement that I’ve felt listening to the amazing experiences they are having; and the worries I have harbored over their very late nights, their first experience living away from home and more.
And I realized that I’ve earned the hat. And then some.
It made me feel special to realize that my son, so new in his own Sussya journey, wanted to include me in the fun and the label.
I was touched and honored.
And now I’m a Sussmaneet.