In the Summer of 1984, I sat in the red-carpeted Living Room at Grandmama’s and Grandpa’s house. We had gathered around the television with my aunts, uncles, and cousins, watching the Summer Olympics out of Los Angeles. I don’t remember if it was the actual event happening live, or if it was a highlight from a previous broadcast, but I remember watching MaryLou Reton’s vaults and celebrating her Perfect Tens.
I can clearly see Aunt Patsy sitting on the couch, saying, “That’s going to be Amanda one day.” Well…I haven’t ever blogged anything about being related to an Olympic gymnast. So it’s pretty safe for you to assume that this never happened. But I think of that moment every time I hear about MaryLou Reton and her gold-medal performance.
During a women’s gymnastics event this week, NBC aired a segment about Keri Strug’s heroic performance in the 1996 Summer Olympics. As I was watching it, I was moved to tears. It’s a powerful story. My twitter stream blew up with tweets about memories of watching Keri’s heroism. Some even talked about how they were there when it happened. Me? I was pretty much clueless about all the drama.
I kinda feel bad that the Kerri Strug story doesn’t evoke deep, powerful memories for me. I was living in the woods that summer #MissedIt
— Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) August 4, 2012
That’s right. I missed the whole thing. I did get to watch a little bit of the Olympics that Summer – primarily Track and Field events. But no gymnastics.
And I’m OK with that.
It’s not because I’m not patriotic. It isn’t because I have some secret hatred of gymnastics. Gabby Douglas is a hero in our home. And watching the Olympics is an Olympic event in the Todd House. We love them. We lose precious sleep watching them. It’s the only time we intentionally allow the kids to stay up until midnight for several nights in a row. But I’m still OK with missing the Magnificent Seven.
I’m OK with that because I have my own memories from that Summer.
I remember getting pelted by hailstones the size of golfballs as John and I ran for cover. I remember climbing on top of our cabin and watching the vast expanse of space unfold before me and scanning the sky for satellites and meteorites. I remember writing countless letters (yes – letters) to Christy and continually checking the gravel road that passed our camp for a yellow SUV to deliver her responses. I remember conquering my fear of heights. I kind of had to. It was a major part of my job.
I remember stories like the description of that night’s steak dinner, the haunting of Charlie Cypher’s Ghost, and the sinister plans to create EuroPhilWorld. I remember performing songs like Land of the Navajo, Fox on the Run, Ugly Girl, Tacos & Burritos, Fire on the Mountain, and Georgetown around a campfire-in-a-bucket, which was probably still illegal because of the drought, but it was contained enough that we had complete control over the situation.
I remember hearing a Camper telling us he thought he saw a funnel cloud, which we quickly dismissed. After all, this was northern New Mexico. Who ever heard of a tornado in New Mexico? Then we started hearing reports come over the radio from Base Camp crew members. A tornado had, in fact, struck Cimarron, and Staff from Base Camp were responding in any way they could. It was amazing to listen to it unfold on the radio.
I remember leading some 70 kids and adults in singing Happy Birthday to my mom because she actually got to visit us on her birthday.
I remember Karl taking a shovel and somehow attaching it to the fence with a rope. It was used as a catapult to launch mini-bears into the meadow, away from our living quarters.
I remember coming back from a Campfire one evening, only to discover that our cabin had been “raided” by other Philmont staff. They had taken all of the labels off all of our canned goods and put them back in the cupboard for us. Meals over the next few days were quite…unique.
It’s funny. I recently wore my bowler to work in order to be eligible for some kind of drawing. As I put on that hat, the memories came rushing back. There’s a small part of me that’s sad because I don’t remember anything about the dramatic story of the Magnificent Seven. But I wouldn’t trade these memories for any amount of riches you could offer. It was a Summer I’ll never forget.
Thanks to the 1996 Crater Lake Staff: Andy, Karl, Ron, and John, for the memories!