Making Memories

This weekend we went to our recently married daughter’s new home for a surprise party for our son-in-law. Our daughter was so excited to throw him a surprise party because he had never had one. It was really tough on her to keep the secret because she likes to share everything. It was fun to watch them began to “make memories” that they will look back on in the years to come.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of a time my wife decided that we needed to “make memories” as a family. Our kids were young and we were planning a trip to Western New York to visit her family. We had always stayed at her grandparents farm but they had sold it so we were going to need to make other arrangements. Her cousin, another option we had used previously, had someone staying with him but said we could stay in his yard if we had a tent or a camper.  My wonderful and beautiful wife had an epiphany upon hearing this.  She pictured an idyllic time of family bonding.  She made the proposal to me stating the economical angle along with the opportunity for our family to “make memories”. Camping was not something we did as a family growing up.  My dad’s idea of roughing it was a Holiday Inn with a black and white TV so I was less than enthusiastic about this idea.  I quickly replied with what I thought was a safe response , “Yeah,that would be fun. Too bad we don’t have a tent.”  You know how sometimes you think you have given the perfect excuse to avoid something you don’t want to do?  Well, this wasn’t one of them because she had already outmaneuvered me by borrowing a tent from my brother.  She went on to extol the virtues of this adventure by stating how much money we would save by camping on the way to and from New York.  Still not completely enthralled with the idea, I accepted my fate agreeing with the concept of happy wife, happy life.  As usual, I researched the possible camping locations along the way and settled on Mohican State park just  outside of Mansfield, Ohio because it was about the half way point.

We even had a dry run, setting up the tent in our playroom.   As I laid in the tent on the carpet, watching the TV through the open flaps, I thought that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.  My wife was almost giddy thinking of our impending journey and making memories became her mantra. The day for departure arrived and we loaded up all the borrowed camping gear.  Luckily the forecast for our first memory making stop was favorable.  The kids had been so primed for this adventure, I lost count of how many “Are we there yet. ” and “How much longer?” were verbalized before we arrived at our destination.  The park ranger advised us to drive around and locate an available camping spot before paying.  It was quite lovely but I’m not too sure I didn’t hear two banjos playing in the background on our search for the ideal spot.  Images of a newly discovered gold strike were brought to mind as there was not a square inch of available land that was not covered with some form of canvas along the creek.  When we returned to the park ranger after our fruitless search, he informed us of a campground outside the park that should have space but that it would cost a little bit more.  The economy of tent camping was losing a little of its luster in my mind but my bride was still sure we could make memories in this alternate location.  We identified the campground by the gigantic authentic fiberglass Indian totem by the side of the road.  Visions of a back to nature encounter were obscured  by the asphalt camping spots filled with multiple recreational vehicles.  Imagine my delight when I was informed that the tent camping was on the other side of the lake but they had only port-a-potties available for calls of nature.  There was also a choice of two classifications of tent camping- primitive and “developed”.  Since the primitive was the cheapest we decided to check them out first.  We could have chosen multiple spots if we had thought to bring along a machete.  I don’t mean to seem judgemental of the campers that had chosen this area but I really wanted to avoid questions like “Daddy, why does it smell like burning rope here?”  We decided that this was not the type of memories we were hoping to make so we opted for the “developed” area even though it was more expensive.  By developed, I mean it had a fire ring and  a water spigot shared by everyone with even two electric outlets for the entire area.  We also noticed a Mennonite family had camped with their bus on the opposite side of the place we had chosen so we felt more comfortable.  After unpacking, I realized that it is way more difficult to pitch a tent when you don’t have chairs and couches to attach it to.  The next job at hand was to prepare dinner.  I had the kids forage for fire wood only to realize that perhaps the area had been over foraged. Unwilling to brave the primitive area on foot, I drove to the camp store to procure some fire wood.  I assured the clerk at the store that I was not planning on building a cabin when the price was quoted.   Taking in account the price of the wood plus our dinner, made me dream of the repast we could have shared at a median priced restaurant.  I guess I needed to prove myself as a hunter-gatherer so told my wife to go make memories in the lake while I prepared the meal.  The logs should have spontaneously combusted with what they cost but such was not the case.  I think I used every bit of scrap paper I found in the floor board and between the seats trying to get those logs to start.  Finally, my Mennonite neighbor offered in what sounded like a New England accent, “I have some kerosene if you would like. ”  I thanked him but not having a great desire for kerosene infused burgers and s’mores declined.  He did give me some dry kindling though that provided enough heat to at least take the chill off the food by the time my family had returned.  After eating, I thought we had made enough memories so we decided to walk to the other side of the lake for showers to get ready for bed.   When we returned to our tent, it appeared that the camp had apparently been offering free or discounted spots because our wide open spaces had become more like a low rise  over-crowded tenement.   We weaved through the maze so we could enter our tent.  Now I don’t believe in karma but it is true that what goes around comes around.  Included in this horde that had invaded while we were gone was a church youth group that was planning to canoe the nearby river the following day.  I paid for every youth trip that I had allowed our group to be distracting to those around us.  There was the constant laughter, loud voices, and the eventual sneaking out of their tents noises that teenagers tend to make when they get together.  About 1:30, their leader had finally reached the breaking point and threatened to pack up and leave if everyone wasn’t immediately asleep in their tents.  My children and wife are gifted sleepers so they missed the majority of these happenings.  I think I had just dropped off to sleep about 3 o’clock, when Mennonite baby began to cry.  Mennonite mamma decided to walk him around the port-a-potty to settle him down.  My wife, who can sleep through anything, happened to raise up to see what the commotion was about.  I caught her eye and couldn’t help but whisper, “Just making memories, baby. Making memories.”

You would have thought we had made enough memories for our initial camping experience but sadly there is one more part of the story.  We had planned on getting an early start so we could arrive at my wife’s cousin’s house early afternoon.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that sometime between 3 and 6, two motorcyclist had pitched camp literally right on top of us.  I have no idea how they accomplished it but the wheels of their bikes were around the tie ropes for our tent.  I held my breath breaking camp fearing that at any moment I might knock over their motorcycles.  I had the family in the car in case we had to make a quick get away with Hell’s Angels following us across New York.

There are plenty of phrases that cause people to remember like:  Remember the Alamo! or Don’t Tread on me.  I wouldn’t trade the experiences we had as our kids grew up.  Making Memories always makes me smile and makes my wife grit her teeth a little.


Deuteronomy 32:7

Remember the days of old;
consider the years long past.
Ask your father, and he will tell you,
your elders, and they will teach you.



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