I

don’t know if I want to do the camp overnight,” Marcel told me.

He had suspicions. Like, maybe if he visited the music camp during the day they could keep him. Or that a visit to the camp in the dead of winter with his school orchestra on a field trip somehow obligated him to return for an extended stay of indeterminate length when the summer sessions began.

“That’s fine,” I said. “You don’t have to. You never have to. I just want to see the place in case you decide you want to sometime. You know, if you have a friend who decides that they want to go.”

He blinked at me.

In an hour and a half, the school’s five chartered buses had delivered us to the camp in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains. I heard the camp owner say ours was the largest group they’d ever hosted.

The day was bright and busy. Marcel played music and I served salad wearing plastic gloves and using metal tongs to 250 people. I listened to thin-lipped mothers complain of frustration that their sixth grader who’d been given private lessons since they were toddling were being denied their God-given right to be in class with eighth graders, and I gamely weathered the criticism of that same camp owner who told me I was probably giving everyone a little bit too much salad—they had a lot of people to feed, you know.

It’s beautiful at that camp in the mountains. You can’t be there for long, though, before you find that you’re asking Marcel-questions of yourself. Commitment questions. Like, say, how much do I love this instrument? How far away from home am I be willing to be in order to attend this camp? And for how long would I want to be there playing along with these people?

Like Marcel, I wouldn’t want to do the camp overnight, either. I just don’t like serving salad that much.