We camped in Alleghany State Park a few weeks each summer with my godparents family when I was around five. Too young to have clear memories of the time and I’ll concede that most of my recollections are most likely from years of repeated stories and a few pictures. However, there are a few that I can fully claim as my own, either by experience or through the tactile memory of the senses.
We made camp in two cabins and the lazy days held trips to the stream to search for salamanders and walks to the general store where you were allowed to buy candy and “Indian souvenirs”. We played board games, walked through the woods, put on elaborate plays that were written and directed by the older kids and cooked marshmallows and hotdogs on sticks around the campfire.
There were movie nights and although I don’t recall any of the movies, there are flashes of memories: taking our sleeping bags and pillows with us as we headed to the general store at dusk and playing on swings and the slide until the movie started, projected on a large screen in the open area near the store. The ground was rock hard underneath us, the mosquitos always biting, but the popcorn flowed and I remember feeling incredibly small under the night sky.
|Wasn't this car exactly, but it was a big 'ole boat like this one!|
The most vivid memory I have is climbing into that same yellow convertible and pretending to drive. I played with the gear shift and must have popped it into neutral as I soon found myself rolling backwards down the dirt driveway that led to our cabins. It stopped with a thump against a tree after rolling across the road at the bottom of the driveway. Beyond that tree was the ravine. I got out and didn’t say a word to anyone. Soon after, the car was discovered, and after much yelling and questioning, someone ended up taking the fall for me and the punishment that went along with it. I was never even considered as the culprit. I don’t recall who ended up being blamed and punished.
These are the childhood moments that begin to shape us. The fear of taking a risk. The joy of simple pleasures with family. Loving the smell of a wooded forest. The magnitude of the night sky and feeling so small beneath it. The guilt associated with a lie. And there, in the hills of Alleghany is as far back as my childhood memories, and my shaping moments go.