OK, a few almost un-American confessions: 1) I never have been camping. That’s right. Even as a Girl Scout, all our troop did (as far as I can recall) was knit yarn octopi. (You read that right. We made little cuddly octopi out of yarn, and someone delivered these — or so we were told — to a nursing home, though God knows why.) Anyway: I never slept in a tent, camper or RV.
For all I know, a camper is an RV.
2) I never had any desire, but Go RVing folks offered me a free camper for a week, and when I told my family, they said, “Yes!” Which meant my meek and measly “Really? Aren’t they big and tacky and gas-guzzling and…” was drowned out by enthusiasm.
Fast forward to here at the Melville Pond Campground in Portsmouth, R.I., where we just spent the night. Our very first.
A night that already had my husband and me walking through the camp trying to decide which RV we’d want someday.
That’s because suddenly, we are literally nestled in the forest. (And I say nestled — and literally — because we are such city slickers that we had to ask some very sweet guy walking by to jump into the driver’s seat and back our giant camper into its tree-lined space. This was after we’d already gotten stuck on our way into the campground, somehow sidling up so close to the “DUMP HERE!” sign that it had to be unscrewed and taken down for us so that it wouldn’t scrape the RV. And that time, too, a very nice guy walking by jumped in and backed it up for us.) (Are you getting the idea that our RV is huge — a Jayco Greyhawk — and we are New Yorkers used to living in apartments smaller than the one we now are driving across New England?)
Anyway, seeing all these tricked-out campers — a tent attached here, a string of Christmas lights there — and campfires surrounded by folks talking and laughing under the trees, under the sky, it felt a little like fairyland. A very American fairyland, of course — electricity hookups pumping plenty of AC and juice for the TV. But here were all the things I like: people coming together, kids and adults, sharing food and stories. “They’re having fun,” I said to my husband.
“They’re having beer,” he replied. (Something I’d forgotten to bring. Will rectify soon.)
As for our kids — ages 15 and 17 — and a 15-year-old friend who joined them, they ended up reading, texting (so it goes), playing ball, playing cards. They also ate almost all the food I expected to last for five days.
It’s morning now, and they’re still asleep. Outside, it’s drizzly, but folks are grilling their bacon and boiling coffee. Lumberjacks, cowboys, pioneers and my inlaws, who keep raving about how much fun camping is; we are one with them now.
We are taking to the American road like Jack Kerouac himself — except for the fact that we’ve got Wi-Fi and a microwave.
(And did I mention the indoor shower?)
Lenore Skenazy is the author of “Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)” and “Who’s the Blonde That Married What’s-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can’t Remember Right Now.”