How We Remember: Camping

Photo by Jens Mahnke on

I have been retired 26 days. I am a teacher, so when people ask me how I like retirement, I always say, “Ask again in September, then it will be real.” So like most summers, I have relaxed a little, slept in a little, played in my garden a lot, enjoyed summer afternoons on the deck with a glass of iced tea and a good book -all typical summertime activities that make those sunny days fly by.

One of those activities was a week spent babysitting West while his mommas took some R and R. We decided to take him camping! We looked forward to it for six months! We held our breaths while the nation was vaccinated and prayed campgrounds and state parks would open and – Viola- vaccinations happened and things started to open up! We reserved a cabin in Deception Pass and started planning.

Observing my grandson going through the motions of exploring, working, playing and seeking campground friendships prompted me to text my brother and tell him how fun it was to watch him go through the same processes exactly like we did as kids. This is sort of how that conversation went:

Me: We just finished a camping trip with Weston. He was super cute at the campground. Do you remember making campground friends. He was trying sooo hard.

Randy: Ummm…The camping I remember were places with no other people.

Me: Yes. Of course. I remember those places, but don’t you remember going to Quartz Creek?

Randy: No.

Me: Quartz creek? Really? I have photographic evidence that you were there… LOL. Byers Lake? Do you remember that campground? Russian River? The bear incident with Ron Theriot? No? You really don’t remember?

Randy: Nope. I remember the backpacking trips. Denali – we rode the bus in. Hidden Lake on the way to Seward. And the Upper Russian Lake trip.

Me: Yes, those were sure good times, but do you remember the campgrounds on our road trips along the Alcan.

Randy: Vaguely. I remember the big green army tent.

(We reminisce about the tent awhile… the smell…how it met it’s demise..)

Me: (Trying to force Randy to remember things I remember…) But don’t you remember camping with Grandma and Grandpa? They had a little trailer and we all slept in that tent. White Horse? Dawson Creek? Colorado?

Randy: Sorry, just the back-country ones. You know we were blessed to have them as parents. All my friends got sent away to summer camp. I went to Indian River.

Me: Truth

Finding it egregious to believe Randy could not remember, I read our conversation to Ray.

Ray: I have to say I remember what Randy remembers. Very few campground memories.

So I ask my dad… WHY DON’T they remember?

Dad: We stopped camping when Randy turned five. (That would make me 12 when we stopped) That was when we decided he was old enough to carry his own backpack. We just went back country after that. And then five or six years later we built the cabin at Indian River and that is the only place we went from that point on.

Being the oldest, I get it, I have a better memory of those campground days – they are crystal clear, but it was a juxtaposition to me to think that we had the exact same childhood experiences and we walked away with such different memories!!

And now I kind of question everything I remember! Is my memory off? Maybe it is time for some heart-to-hearts with my brothers about our collective memories, maybe I will start by asking what their Christmas memories are! Or family vacations. Summers in Albuquerque, the California cousins. Our sisters heart surgery. Fort building. Skiing. Dogs we had. Babysitters. My mom working, my mom not working…..

And my own kids. How do they remember things? The thing I feel most guilty about – working too much- do they remember that as vividly as I do? Those Sunday nights when I rushed back home from school just in time for a cold dinner and a bed time story? Or the things I remember most fondly – cuddling and stories? Boisterous dinners with singing and laughter?

We own our memories, I know we do. We own what has happened to us, but as those memories distort over the years and blend with other experiences, how does this effect the stories we tell? Are they honest? I am not sure, but will give it some thought, a little research and in the meanwhile keep on telling them.

(The words were amazing easy to fit in and weirdly perfect for these thoughts today… Juxtaposition especially!)

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