Savannah Morning News column
June 14, 2015
This is camp season.
I want to go to camp.
Sometimes I look around and think the world is divided into two sides: those who hated camp, those who loved it. I loved it. Campfires, cabins, bunk beds, someone else doing the cooking, sports, competition, arts and crafts (lanyards!), swimming in the cold lake, singing, canoeing, tennis lessons. What could be so horrible?
It helped that I had two uncles, athletes both, who decided when they got out of World War II, they would raise money and start a camp in West Branch, Michigan. And so they did. It was communal living at its best. Maybe that’s what I liked the most.
Where is the camp for adults? Who is going to start this?
At Camp Michigama we went away for eight weeks. Yes, there was visiting day in the middle where we saw our parents. Yes, we got letters (remember them?); my grandmother would include individual pieces of Wrigley’s Doublemint chewing gum. My mother would send a dollar for canteen. There were no phone calls. There was a camp nurse. It was a good break for the parents, I am sure, but who thought of them? Not me. I was with my peers and the counselors.
I don’t hear about camps anymore. Day camps, yes. I just got finger printed so I could gain entrance to take a young three-year-old into her weeklong camp. Wonder what my parents or my uncles would think of being finger printed. That was a more trusting age. That was camp: community living. Maybe that’s what I miss the most.
When people hear about “communal living” these days it’s mostly in reference to the hippies of the 1960s (I was one of them – sort of) and their social experiment that didn’t end so well. Back then the more common term was communes. One study I read said there were as many 2,000 before everyone drifted back to the city. So what happened? We were too young. That’s what. And then we fell for the capitalistic, individualistic model of mortgages, single family houses, a television in every room, minimum two computers per person (you have to count a smartphone as a computer, let’s face it), multiple bathrooms, a washer and dryer in each property.
How many of you can say that is working? I think some people might say they’re a little lonely. We keep talking about our search for community, our desire to interact, yet there we are, living alone or with our partner, be it husband, wife or other. It seems a little silly, even solitary. As long as I could have my own bedroom, where I could keep my “things” (a pair of scissors, tape, a hammer, a printer, a window that opens and closes) it might work. As long as we all agreed on noise and cleanliness and there was a bookkeeper to handle the money and it would be multigenerational it could be great.
It can be another version of the “Golden Girls.” One will cook, the younger one will drive, one will keep the conversation lively, one will garden.
Occasionally I spend time in someone’s house on a nearby island. It’s a large house so often there are six or seven people there at one time. We each have our own bedroom. The kitchen is the center. In the morning everyone wanders down, either makes or pours a cup of coffee, then someone else cooks breakfast. Same thing for lunch. Same thing for dinner. Someone washes the dishes, dries the dishes, puts the dishes away. There’s no written schedule; it just all gets done. It’s a very comforting feeling to be around people and to be by myself too.
A few years ago I met someone who moved here from Atlanta and bought a five-bedroom house. Why so many bedrooms, I asked George. You don’t think I want to live by myself or with maybe one other person, do you?
Around that same time a friend of mine went to San Francisco for a workshop on intentional community. Nothing has come of it. Yet. But it got me thinking. When I google the subject I learn that intentional communities, defined as people who live together on the basis of explicit common values, stood at 1,055 in the U.S. as of 2010, up from 325 in 1990.
Could this be a trend? Is this trending?
Until it is let’s go to camp.