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Photo by Sophie Singletary

The Chocolate Milk Scandal

Growing up in a blended family is a very complicated endeavor, one that is often easier when you’ve got a partner in crime to share your experiences, as my older brother Harrison was to me. Although I have many siblings, my relationship with Harrison was always different, because we were going through all the same crazy things in life together. Things like our parents’ second marriages, going from having 3 siblings to 6 basically overnight, visiting our dad on the weekends, trying to juggle holidays at two houses, and later, holding new baby after new baby after new baby. These were all things that we had to adjust to, and we did them together. Because of these experiences, my loyalty to Harrison as a child was unwavering. If you asked Harrison if this were true I’m not sure exactly what he would say, but he might tell you this story:

While visiting our dad’s house one weekend, Harrison woke me up after everyone else had gone to bed to ask me if I wanted to get some chocolate milk with him. Our dad and step-mom were always much more strict with sweets than our mother, and chocolate milk was not an acceptable midnight thirst-quencher. What he was proposing was risky, but I was never one to turn down a cold glass of chocolate milk. Of course, once I had said yes and rubbed the sleep from my eyes, he told me the catch: if I was going to go with him, I had to take the fall if we were caught. I reluctantly agreed and the two of us made our way downstairs to loot the goods. We had made it to the kitchen and got the chocolate milk gallon out of the fridge when, in the throes of our larceny, we heard someone approaching, someone with the footfalls of an adult. Harrison threw the jug into my unsuspecting hands and made his great escape. He hid in the next room while I stood there, struggling with the weight of the treat and awaiting my fate. My dad found me standing there in front of the fridge.

After a brief scolding, he took the chocolate milk from my tired arms and I made my way to my room, heart-broken that I would not be getting any chocolate milk and that I would have to spend the day doing absolutely nothing. While I stared at my ceiling wallowing in my self-pity, Harrison stared at his, touched by the sacrifice I had made and feeling guilty for what he had done. The next morning he confessed to my dad his part in the Chocolate Milk Scandal, and we spent that day grounded, but together.

Now, here’s the thing about that story, I have absolutely no memory of it. Harrison told me that story earlier this year during a random conversation with our mom. I have no clue how much of the story is true and how much has been altered from the years it has spent in Harrison’s long-term memory and also his telling and my understanding of it; yet, I now consider it as a part of my history.

During my Princeton orientation there was one subject that our speakers and the Bridge Year staff brought up over and over again: Journaling. Although I could understand why they wanted us to be writing constantly about our experiences, so that we could reflect on the things we had done, I didn’t realize how important journaling would be to just the simple act of remembering the things I’m doing in Senegal. I assumed that my time in Senegal would be so memorable that I would have no trouble remembering the things I did and the experiences I had.

For the first month, I did really well because the entire cohort would often sit together at night and spend some time journaling before bed. But for all of that, when we arrived in Dakar I started to slack off. I didn’t have seven other people reminding me and encouraging me to write, so instead of journaling at least once every day I started to average one journal entry every two weeks. Now, I’ve realized that many of the moments I’ve spent here are already beginning to elude me. What was I thinking after we went to the Musee de la Femme? Or after we talked with the Association of Senegalese Female Lawyers? I don’t want to lose these experiences like that of the Chocolate Milk Scandal, or for the memories to be altered by years of not thinking about them.

Just yesterday my cohort and I had a Skype call with Princeton Bridge Year Staff John and Matt who encouraged us to pick back up on our journaling, which is exactly what I intend to do. I don’t want any more moments to slip away.