This past August our community went on a Cohousing camping trip in the Jemez Mountains. The towering pines and little stream running right through the campsite were pretty spectacular, but what was hands down the most revolutionary for me was the way the campsite mimicked the experience of actual Cohousing. We had a group site with tons of individual campsites spread out around a central gathering space - a covered eating area large enough for the whole group and a big fire pit. We planned ahead so that we could take turns cooking and cleaning for the entire group. This meant that we got to try each other’s delicious cooking, eat by the mesmerizing campfire over great conversation - and, it meant only having to assist in preparing one meal and cleaning once - the whole weekend. If you can’t already tell, that last point alone, for a mom of little kids - was revolutionary.
Someone set up between trees an amazing rope-climbing adventure course for the kids. Another member brought her guitar and led the whole group in a song with movements and dancing. We told stories, roasted marshmallows, played games… and at one point I went up to my tent to get something and looked back at the bustling goings-on below. Pockets of spontaneous happy interaction with people of all ages moving between them. Some kids playing a running game in the field, others helping wash dishes, intergenerational friends admiring a giant caterpillar together, a group of adults in lively conversation by the fire… and then I spotted my two year old, who I realized I hadn’t had tabs on in a while, seated at a table about 100 ft away with some grown-ups and maybe another kid. They were huddled around the table doing something or talking about something - couldn’t quite tell from where I stood, but they were totally engrossed. Daddy, mommy and big brother were nowhere around but my two-year old was beyond comfortable. He was living his best life. A sensation of calm and ease, which I hadn’t had in a very long time, washed over me. The beauty before me was exactly what I’d moved across country to be a part of. And honestly, it was better than I had imagined.
Let me back up a little to explain. My mother was a free-range parent before the term existed. She sent me to the corner store to pick up milk at the age of 6 and put me on city buses at the age of 9. And her favorite directive was always, “Go outside and play.” That meant go out and play in the front or back yard unsupervised, when I was little. And then it meant go find neighborhood kids to roam the streets with, when I was a little older. Looking back, this freedom she gave me to explore the world on my own and in my own way, was one of the greatest gifts she ever gave me. My play was unstructured and creative. I learned to navigate social relations, risk and danger. I earned independence and gained confidence in the process.
So when I became a parent, naturally I wanted to do the same. But then, I didn’t. The residential street in front of our house was used more like a freeway and the corner store was straight out of a scene from Boyz N the Hood (the movie actually was filmed in our neighborhood). So move to a better neighborhood you might say. Yeah, but there are no kids out playing in those neighborhoods either.
For me, one of the biggest draws of Cohousing ABQ is that it will be the perfect place to say, “Go out and play.” I knew this on an intellectual level before the Cohousing camping trip, but I had never actually experienced just what it would feel like. And honestly, it felt so damn good.
Cohousing will not be a re-creation of what I had as a kid growing up. It will be so much better. Because, in addition to freedom, they’ll have community, and not just any community, but the amazing people who make up Cohousing ABQ. I’m deeply grateful.