Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How We Remember

Every year for as along as I can remember, my family has had an annual camping trip.
In the summer.
Somewhere with a lake.
And we'd bring the boat.

And then the group expanded to include girlfriends, family friends, friends from college, fianc├ęs, husbands, wives, and new little babies who have joined the fray.
The Bohlender family camping trip is my favorite holiday.

Somewhere between unloading the truck and setting up tents, someone will say:
"Remember that time that the Bronco started smoking somewhere between Fort Morgan and Burlington, and Daryl had to flag a ride into town, leaving Vickie with the kids on the side of the road?"


"Remember when Daryl was chopping wood and a piece flew up breaking his glasses, and lodging glass in his eye ball? And then we had to drive an hour in the middle of the night to the emergency room?"


"Remember that flat tire that we got in Sterling and that nice family stopped and helped us?"
And inevitably, someone interjects, "No, I thought that was in Sidney."
And someone else will chime in, "Well, I don't remember that flat tire, but I remember the one in Wyoming."

And so it goes.

There's a checklist of some of our favorite stories. And because you might never make it to a Bohlender family camping trip, let me enlighten you to some of the highlight reel:

-the time little Ashley saw a snake eating a toad at the farm and ran inside to grandma and told her, "Come quick, there's a snake and a toad and they are arguing!"

-the time that little Chris with his sippy cup in-hand, walked out the front door, down the middle of the street we grew up on, until some nice neighbors returned him back home.

-the time that little Heather, was in one of those walkers with wheels, and (the story goes that Chris left the gate open to the stairs; we don't actually know this, but it's a detail I'm always sure to include) I went head-over-heels, walker and all, down the stairs. My poor mom got a lot of dirty looks from strangers who saw her infant daughter with a black eye and bruises and assumed I was being abused.

-the time that Ashley dressed Chris up like a girl and took pictures and called him "Chrissy" or as Angie coined at least two decades ago, "Christopher Ding-a-Ling". (Your welcome, Chris.)

-the time that Chris started sleeping in his closet and hoarding food that would go undiscovered for weeks.

-the time that I refused to take off my swimsuit for a summer and my hair turned green from the chlorine at the pool.

-all the pets who escaped: the hamster, the hermit crabs, the rat, the dogs...

-the time that we were camping in Wyoming and decided to go caving down a huge pit in the ground (Was it 50 feet? Was it 100?). And somebody rigged a rope tied to the back of a truck. And somebody went down in a harness. And somebody (a toddler) tipped upside down. And somebody's mother almost lost her shit. (When none of us could remember who the "somebody" in this story was, Ashley said, "Who does this trauma belong to?)

-all the times we went camping and something broke down. Which is literally every time.


These are the stories we tell time and time again. Like clock-work.
Like we just need to hear it one more time. To make sure it's still there. Like if we don't say it this year, we might forget it by next year. And so all fourteen of us, collectively gather around the fire at night, just to remember where we've come from.

Because we aren't 8 years-old anymore.
We aren't teenagers.
Jake died of cancer.
And Grandpa passed away, too.
We've moved forward.
We are adults.
With mortgages and kids.
With new social circles that only know the adult version of ourselves.
With lives that look so different from our roots
on the farm
back in the day.

And so we share, 
to remember who we were
which helps us remember who we are.

At one point last weekend, my cousin Angie asked me, "Where's your birth mark? I haven't seen it in awhile." And I legitimately didn't know what she was talking about for half-a-second. And then, I did. And then, I remembered. Because she remembered. As a kid, in the summers, I spent so much time in the sun that my face would tan and only then, would a dark mark appear on my right jaw line. But it only comes out in the summer. And it stopped appearing when I started caring about my skin. And wearing sunscreen. And I haven't seen it since.

On the drive home from Lake McConaughay this summer, we listened to a podcast that discussed transactive memory, which is essentially, the shared storage. For example, in a marriage, there are innumerable details that one person will let go of because they know that the other person will remember for them. And remind them. This person (or people) will serve as an external hard drive so that as a collective, the group can still remember.

And this is why we go camping.
An annual family picnic wouldn't do the trick.
We need a whole weekend to help each other remember.
And again.

Thank God.