Memory is a funny thing. We can have a memory of an event that we swear is exactly how it happened. And yet other people remember it differently. Memory is a wonderful way to edit the events of the past. And yet we hold to our memories as being truths. Why?
Our memories validate our journey. I have a wonderful memory of a pivotal event in my life. I was about 16 or 17 years old. I was on a training weekend with my Boy Scout troop. (At a certain age boy scout troops can go coed) We were preparing to go on a weeklong canoe trip and we needed to check out some of the younger members. I was in one of four canoes on the water about a half a mile from shore. I was the most experienced canoeist. Eight young women in four canoes. On the water sometimes storms come up in seconds. That is exactly what happened. A canoe is a wonderful mode of transportation but it is not the safest. In choppy water it can be quite tippy. There was no way for the canoes to make it back to shore before the storm hit so I made a decision to ride it out. I’m sure your first thought is: was she absolutely nuts? But you see I had a plan. What impresses me about this is that I was still so very young and yet what I did was the absolute smartest thing to do. How I knew that, I don’t know.
Here is what we did. I had all four canoes get close to each other side-by-side. Then I had the young women sit on the bottom of the canoes and swing their legs over the gunwales. Essentially we were tying the canoes together using our legs. Myself and one other young woman sat normally in the outside canoes and steered what was essentially a raft. I also saw to it that we sang, loudly. The others really thought I was nuts. But I also knew that sound carries over water. Our singing alerted the people on the shore that we were okay. The storm only lasted about 10 or 15 minutes but it felt like an hour. When the storm had passed we unlinked the canoes and paddled to shore. We were all heroes. It could have gone so terribly wrong, but it didn’t.
The thing that gets me about this memory is that I have no idea who was out there on the lake with me. I remember some of the people on the shore but I have absolutely no memory of the faces or names of the young women in those canoes. I’d have thought I would have remembered them.
Why this memory is so important to me is because I think it’s probably the first time I ever took charge of a situation and I did it with such confidence. I was not a confident person. I questioned everything I did. I just assumed I was doing something wrong. There is a part of me that wonders about the other people that were there that day. How do they remember what happened? I wish I could contact the young women in the other canoes to see how they remember it.
So for now this memory will remain mine. I share it because it makes me look good! And we all need a little stroking every now and then. If I have bored you, I apologize. If you enjoyed my little walk down memory lane, then I am glad. We should all hold on to our fondest memories. If we don’t write them down then eventually they will change over time. Sometimes that’s a good thing.