Adventures for Sylvia

There are certain places, events, ages and periods of time, and more that define a part of who you are as a person. One such example for Carlos is the summer he lived outside Cle Elum in central Washington when he was 7. Though it was a brief period of time, and seemingly uneventful to an outsider, that summer has resonated with him ever since. It was a defining time for him growing up, figuring out the world around him, growing, exploring and learning about himself and his family. His life there was uprooted quickly and he and his family moved away. It has always seemed to me that though his time living there was brief, he left a piece of himself there to keep on growing. We drive past the area he lived whenever we head to the other side of the mountains. He always looks in the direction of his former home as we drive by, nostalgically, lost only momentarily in memories and thoughts I imagine. Once we took the long way home as he wanted to show me the exact location. He found where he thought it was, as details have gotten foggy over the years and wildlife has taken over. It tugged at my heart strings to watch him try and remember details and locations. I could tell it upset him, slightly, to not remember things that he so badly wanted to share with me. That place, that time, that age…it is one of those things that is as defining of him as his name is. 

I too have a place that I left a part of me to continue to grow at. (The horcrux parallel is not lost on me.) My family spent summers camping. If I had to guess, I would say I have been camping at Ohanapecosh Campground at Mt. Rainier at least 50 times.  That place is a part of me as a person. I could tell a hundred stories of exploring the creeks that we would always get a site by, riding our bikes around the loops all day long, my dad going swimming in the Ohanapecosh River despite all the signs saying DO NOT GET IN THIS WATER, hiking to Silver Falls, going to Junior Ranger classes and being covered in mosquito bites. My parents got a tent trailer when I was 11 or 12 but before that were exclusive tent campers, though my dad would sleep on a cot outside usually, as he wanted to be under the stars. Often we would go camping during summer solstice and my parents would tell us stories about how fairies are easiest to spot under large trees on midsummer’s eve. One solstice my parents told us they heard the fairies when we went to bed and sometimes they leave in such a hurry in the morning that they leave their belongings behind for kids to find. We were sent scampering down the trail to find an entire little dining room set (Perfect size for our dollhouse! What a coincidence!) with tiny plates and cups and even a china hutch in a rotted out log. It was clear to my sister and I the fairies had enjoyed a magnificent tea party the entire night before and we just happened to be the first kids to find what they had left behind. Magic like that happened at Ohanapecosh.

Carlos and I have been taking many small escapes out of town in the past two and a half weeks and sharing important places, like Ohanapecosh for me, has been a part of that. They are usually last minute, unplanned adventures because we need to get away, feel lost and unknown somewhere for a bit. We left for Mt. Rainier this past Sunday for an overnight trip at Paradise but I wanted to take Carlos first through the campground that I spent so much of my childhood at. I can’t remember the last time I was camping there, probably when I was 16 or so, but it still looks exactly the same. We hiked to Silver Falls, drove through the camp sites that I ran and biked around and around hundreds, if not thousands, of times in my life. The air, the smells, the sounds…while I am sure if you compared them side by side with another campground nearby it would be no different, to me, it is. A part of me is still there.

I became emotional and teared up a handful of times walking around the campsite and on our hike. While these days it is quite common for me to suddenly burst into tears, these tears on this day at this location had many layers. The initial layer is Sylvia and our grief. It always will be, I imagine, for the rest of our lives. A second layer was seeing lots of young families hiking, camping and laughing. Imagining that could have been us, if Sylvia was alive. A third layer was for my childhood. To be so young, naive and blindly happy. It seems almost painful to look back at my innocence to now know what was lying ahead.

Carlos and I will keep taking trips and escapes to get lost and share places we love with each other. More than ever, it seems almost mandatory. Just using the term ‘getting lost’ I know has an obvious direct psychological explanation. We are not running, I should make that point, as  we are not avoiding emotions or not communicating at any point. Returning to familiar places, finding those little parts of us that we have scattered, as well as finding new adventures is something we have dedicated to Sylvia.  Travelling doesn’t take away, help or really do anything for our grieving process. It is still there, crashing like waves, uncovering new reminders of her we didn’t even know existed. Are we chasing her? I don’t know. What it does accomplish for us is the notion that we have to keep moving forward, not moving on, but forward, slowly, sometimes fearfully, but always together.

Teresa MendozaComment