We bought a stuffed toy marmot in Yosemite National Park at the end of our section hike on the Pacific Crest Trail after weeks of making up stories about the various marmots we had greeted on the trail. When you spend a month hiking, you start doing silly things, like greet marmots and make up stories about them. We felt a little silly purchasing a stuffed marmot for ourselves, but we have never regretted adopting him. After two and a half years, he’s still our mascot, scapegoat, brunt of jokes, and our regular road-trip companion.
At home, we call the marmot lazy if he doesn’t make the bed or notice with ridiculous enthusiasm whenever he does make the bed. We blame him if the laundry hasn’t been washed, and we worry whether Marmy needs a wife, food, or a bigger rock on which to poop. We have moments of outlandish concern when we declare in mock horror that we aren’t sure he’s ever pooped! Call the vet! Sometimes, we argue about whose turn it is to sleep cuddled with the marmot, or we leave him to sleep alone on our nightstand. Although our dog has many toys, he knows that Marmy is not one of them and has never once attempted to take him for his own.
On the road, Marmy offers similar entertainment value. He chills on the dash or by my side while my husband drives. We make up stories about him, or my husband will grab him from my side and tell him in soothing tones that he’s safe now as I say Chickasha repeatedly each time we encounter a new road side bearing the town’s name of Chickasha. Once, my husband chucked Marmy unceremoniously to the back of the car while looking for something else, and I shouted, “How could you!” and brought him back to his proper place at the front of the car. The marmot never asks how far it is to the destination and rarely asks for pit stops; he’s the perfect road-trip companion.
Marmy is an experienced traveler (except for when we pretend he’s irate and rather lost). He’s been as far North as the Canadian border, as far South as Mexico, as far East as Atlanta, and, of course, as far West as Yosemite National Park where we adopted him. We leave him in the car whenever we venture into the backcountry on a day hike. Sometimes, we’ll comment to each other wistfully, “I wonder what the marmot is doing right now?” (Pooping, eating, destroying the car in revenge at having been left behind). My husband will ask if I fed the marmot before leaving him, and I’ll tell him in a somber tone, “it’s time that I tell you something about the marmot…” and he will cry out like Luke Skywalker: “NOOOOOO!”
At other times in the backcountry, we return to telling stories about Marmy, attributing offbeat feats or desires to him. On one hike, we saw a giant rock that looked like a turtle, so I explained that the Marmot was furious at being left behind because he had been on a pilgrimage to this turtle. To be so close yet so far only to be abandoned in the car was infuriating to him! He could not believe how callous we were to thwart his dreams!
The marmot, in other words, has become such a long-running inside joke that he has become a family tradition, lazy bum that he is. Every family needs a few ridiculous traditions because this kind of kooky shenanigans is a cohesive bond within the family; others might scratch their head in polite bewilderment, but we get it. These moments are part of what makes our family a family. Marmy wouldn’t have it any other way.