Always around this time of year I think about Waltonia. Waltonia was the place of my youth where I felt 100% myself even as a child. It was the trip my family took each summer and my favorite place in the whole world. I drove through it last summer when I dropped Avery for camp, that was my first time back in 11 years. I hope I can open the door for my girls to build memories like my family did for me.
So I leave you with this little rant that I typed up this morning while I was reminiscing about my summers in Kerrville. My littles and I are headed out to hike and enjoy a scalding day in Austin. A lot of silliness is about to go down.
The Vague and the Vivid--
I have so many early memories, snapshots that are bright and poignant but fleeting, they have no background or dialog I can link. These flashes have emotion, I can connect them with a positive or negative feeling. I remember eating Ramen Noodles off the sidewalk in front of my house when I was about 2 or 3, the uncooked kind. I can’t say for sure, but I think my sisters and I snuck a few packages outside and they ran off with the little flavor packets and I remained right out front in full view just eating the little square of crunchy noodles and I was happy. In full contrast to that good but gross memory I also have the distinct picture of being cornered in our backyard while my oldest sister towered over me with a lizard in her fingers (taking a break here to go vomit) and threatening to put it on me. A deeply traumatic memory which I blame as the very beginning of my lizard phobia, I will find out the proper name for that soon. A negative moment in my past no question.
The most prominent memories that I have center around Waltonia. The only real vacation spot I was ever taken to growing up and the highlight of each year for me until the age 17. Waltonia is a camp site that when I was younger had 15 or 16 rustic cabins. My family stayed in #12 until I was 16. We spent one week as a family floating the Guadalupe River, taking walks, playing games, napping, and more. Typically we’d start out with a breakfast of cereal and then run around or swing until the grown ups were ready to take out down to the river. We’d suit up, grab an inner-tube and hike down to the waterfront. It would take us a while to build the courage to jump in the cold water, but once we were in the games were on and we’d splash around for hours at a time, when I say “hours” I mean like 4 hours of just being in the water. Literally sundrenched we would return to our cabin and make a quick lunch, somehow I link it with bologna and mayonnaise that actually tasted incredible to me back then, I am convinced that swimming makes all food taste better. Even though I balked about it each day, a luxurious nap would follow. I’d sleep for at least 3 hours, heaven to me and to my parents I am sure! When I got older nap time was reading time, which could last even longer than 3 hours, I adored just laying next to an open window and smelling the trees while I got lost in a Baby Sitters Club or Sweet Valley High book. From the moment I woke up or found a chapter to hold my place it was beg-time. My sister Rebecca and I would plead to go back to the water. We had friends in other cabins and we’d go make plans with them too and beg their parents. Finally one of the adults would cave in and take us back out to swim. Another round in the water, often it would be a trip to the low water bridge, a section next to the entrance of the camp ground where the road cut through the river and the water rushed under it at a dangerous speed. We would make up stories about all the possible drownings it had caused and scream if we got near it. Eventually they crafted a grate over it, making it seem far less exciting to play around. On Wednesday the schedule was rearranged for a special trip into town, the nearest town was Kerrville, TX. Our family and several others staying out at Waltonia would go eat Mexican food at Mamacitas. All of us kids would sit at one end and then the teens were close, they’d make us laugh and I remember wanting to be just like my sisters and my friend Tiffany’s brother, they were the cool ones to me. Even as a kid I felt drawn to certain people. Thursday night was another special night for our little camp community. Again it involved town. In Kerrville there is an outdoor theatre called the Pointe Theatre. They would run a few shows each summer so we would buy tickets to the Thursday night performance each year no matter what it was. Some were well known and some were things I’d never heard of, but I developed a love for the stage and appreciation for amateur acting that I credit to those talented people at the Pointe Theatre. Even when packing for the trip we would plan a special outfit for “play night.” As little kids it meant putting on a dress instead of ratty shorts and tee shirts, but as I grew up it evolved to full on hot rolling of the hair, painting my nails, and putting make-up on. Fashion was something innate for me, I enjoyed the dressing up almost as much as the actual play. Friday was a bittersweet day, all our normal activities were present, we played a little longer in the water, finished eating all the treats we had purchased for the trip, made special trips to some little rapids, and most importantly we planned our annual night time walk past the haunted cabins of the old Waltonia campgrounds to the Ingrim Cemetery. The teenagers did most of the planning and haunting, I remember the first year I crossed the line from walking to scaring (truly, I was still scared myself). There were flashlights, water balloons, silly string, shaving cream, spooky noises, and oddly potato chip bags. It was thrilling to have the older kids try to spook us, they would make up stories all during the week building up to the big walk. Each year they would do one big scary thing, my favorite was they year they faked a car running over one of the guys and smeared his shirt with oil in the print of a tire, then he popped up and chased us. Brilliant sound and visual effects to a 6 year old, I was wowed. After we got back to the camp, we would jump in the river in our clothes for a night swim, I still love this. Saturday was such a hard day for me, we would pack up and leave by lunchtime, every year I cried a little. The drive home was always faster than the drive there and I would finish whatever book I was in the middle of and once home I would begin counting the days until the next summer....
Waltonia might very well be my favorite part of my childhood.