Tripping and Traipsing

I’ve been thinking a lot about things tangentially related to my last post on Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about memories – those memories long-gone, far in the past, that only come bubbling to the surface when the right trigger is there.

Today, for the first time in years, I thought about one of the women I worked at summer camps with. Her name was Ellen – she was a first-year counselor the last year I was a camper, and we worked together as counselors for the next several years. She was strong and smart and funny. She was a swimmer and diver at one of the colleges that was rival to my college. One summer, she dated another counselor named Paul. We all thought they were the cutest couple, until everyone realized that Paul was two-timing her with another counselor. That knowledge made everyone at the camp pretty uncomfortable. Not being swift or suave or anything like that, I got all ticked at Paul and stopped talking to him for the rest of the summer. At our final barbeque in August, he got in my face about it, and I recall yelling at him. I think he was the first person other than my parents or brother who I yelled at.

That was the picnic where I met Mark L. for the first time. He was the younger brother of my all-time favorite camp counselor, Shelly. They grew up in another small town in Minnesota, near my small town, in the same athletic conference. I adored Shelly. She too was strong and smart and funny, and in that way that camp counselors have, made me feel like the neatest, most special kid in the world. I wrote to her faithfully throughout my grade school and junior high school years. I wonder if she ever remembers that?

But back to Mark. He was a great guy – my age, typical of the small-town kids in Minnesota who I knew at the time. Played sports, dated some, and was headed to college. Imagine my surprise several years later when I was working a summer job at a liquor store in suburban Minneapolis, and found out that Mark worked there too! I hung out a little bit with him and his roommate that summer, but was still pretty awkward in my own skin at the time, and didn’t think that I was interesting enough for them. Only in the past 6 or 7 years have I grown into myself, and only in that time have I been comfortable hanging out with casual acquaintances.

Mark had fire-engine red hair, like many of the guys I grew up with. I loved that hair – I’m not sure why. I do know that at various points in my under-16-ness, I had crushes on each and every red-headed-boy in my school. My best friend used to harrass me about that. The tables were turned some when she ended up dating and marrying a redhead of her own. They had a little boy in April. I wonder if he’ll end up with his dad’s red hair, and wonder if he’ll have to deal with schoolgirl crushes from the likes of young librarygrrrls?

I love the way memory works, tripping and traipsing through the inner recesses of our minds, associating words with images with emotions with memories. The paths I took, from the trigger today through my summer camp experiences to the liquor-store job to red-headed boys… Only the human mind can do such a thing.