Sam and I are building a house in Staunton, Virginia. Well, we’re not actually sawing and nailing it! 🙂 We’ve contracted someone to build it, but we’ve been heavily involved with the design, choosing everything that goes into it from toilets to door knobs, to paint colors, to light fixtures, and even where the oven should go. It has been exhausting, but will be worth it when it’s all complete.
Last winter, we had hoped that when we left Camp Alleghany in August we would be moving right into our new home. Well, of course, that didn’t happen.
With one delay after another pushing the completion date farther into the fall, we knew we had to make some temporary living arrangements. It was suggested that a suite hotel in Harrisonburg, 25 miles north of Staunton, would be a good place because they allow guests to bring their pets. So we booked a “suite” but decided to leave the dogs at the kennel until we checked everything out. We knew the dogs would be just fine since the kennel has a very large play yard.
Well, we arrived at our “suite” and were very surprised. It was a nice room and quite clean, but by no means was it large enough for the two of us much less for us and two dogs.
The “kitchen” consisted of a refrigerator, sink, a two burner stove, no oven, and the loudest dishwasher on the planet. There were dishes, glassware, and a silverware set provided for exactly four people, and a small set of pans.
The one table had to do dual duty as a desk and dining room which created some complications for trying to run an office and a household. There were two chairs, but one was bolted to the floor facing the TV, so we either had to eat in shifts at the table or someone had to eat in his/her lap. That will keep you efficient!
But the much advertised “dog play area” was merely a grassy plot of three square at the far end of the hotel’s parking lot. It was not exactly enough room for two vivacious dogs — one 35 pounds and the other 65 pounds — both of whom were used to burning off their energy in wide open spaces.
What were we to do?
Good, solid training
Please understand that this is a well run, nice hotel and even allows guests to use the laundry facilities for free. It just wasn’t quite enough space for us. But as the days passed, I realized that all my years of living and working at camp had prepared me for this.
When our children were young, we moved out of the Cottage and into a tent during Family Camp. We had everything we needed: places to sleep, a place to relax and talk, and a place to play. There were five of us in a 196 square foot tent, so surely Sam and I could manage 250 square feet in the hotel room that had a “kitchen.”
But it was more difficult than we had thought it would be, even with our camp training.
I’m a bit of a night owl, and normally will go to another room in the house and read or watch an old movie on TV when I can’t sleep. But since we were in one room, and I didn’t want to disturb Sam, I had to be content with playing Tetris on my phone when I couldn’t sleep. (And I did get quite good at it.) Also, while it sounds elegant to eat out all the time, it gets old and repetitive after a while. Just how many different ways can chefs cook chicken or hamburgers?
Eventually, Elizabeth’s mother-in-law suggested we talk with a friend who had a house she was planning to rent. It was partially furnished and they didn’t mind us having the dogs. We called and after a visit, agreed we’d like to rent the house, on a short term basis and we were accepted.
We borrowed a bed from Elizabeth, along with dishes and other kitchen supplies, packed up our suitcases and boxes, and moved in, dogs and all.
It’s an interesting little house. It was built probably in the late 70s/early 80s time frame. The entire east side of the house is all large windows and there are doors from each room out to a large concrete patio that snakes around that side of the house. There’s a beautiful view of the mountains, too.
Sam set up his “office” in the living room and we put some curtains up on some of those windows so we can actually see our computer screens in the morning. The dining table is still doing double duty, but at least now we both can sit and face each other at meals.
Once again, I was reminded of how we live at camp with all of us in close proximity. We make do with the space we have and the lack of some privacy, but we all know it is temporary. Summer camps — Alleghany as a tent camp in particular — allow us the chance to define ourselves and our inner space; to be content with less; and to rely on our own strengths and on our friends. We learn to “make do” and usually become stronger individuals as a result.
Fast forward to today and we have a few more weeks until the new house is ready for us. The rental is now becoming a warehouse of towel racks, light fixtures, and new bedding. We’re waiting to get some additional pieces of furniture after we move in. Right now, I have no idea which new pieces I’ll need.
As we continue to “camp out” here it just seems like an extension of the summer, even though it’s a bit cooler now. We aren’t at “home” just yet. I’ll make certain to share a couple of photos once we move in. Let’s hope that we may be able to have Halloween night in the new house!
–Bonnie Dawson, Director of Special Events, Camp Alleghany for Girls