"Put one foot in front of the other," and you begin the mobile phase of our lives. Our first steps most likely took place toward open arms and encouraging words, with a few stumbles and falls, and amid some fierce determination. Soon after, you become an ordinary, daily part of us for a long time. We amble, we strut, we even drag ourselves at times, and we march from place to place, moments to moments in life.
We began our first summer vacation outing with a hike at a state park about a two-hour drive away. Dear Husband had wanted to visit this particular park for a long time. Seeing that we were going to have great weather, he mentioned this place for a hike. I wholeheartedly agreed, and if you know anything about me, that is huge. You see, I've come a long way.
Just after we moved to our current house in Suburbia, DH had often suggested that we go hiking at our local forest preserves trails. Being the sun- and bugs- Major-Phobe that I am, I was not interested. Much. Dear Daughter was a mini-me in that regard, and Dear Son was still in diapers then. So the thought of trudging through muddy trails in the heat, risking mosquito bites, and very likely having to carry DS for most of the hike was not very appealing to me. So DH waited.
Finally, he got us to go on a 1.5 mile hike at a trail minutes away from our home (baby steps work well for stubborn people, if you ask me). The kiddos were four and eight, and walked the entire way with nary one complaint. They even had fun, as did I (no bug bites or sunburns involved). So I said to DH, "How come we didn't do this earlier? This is so close to home!" He gave me the most amiable I-told-you-so look he could muster and called it a day. At least we knew that it was totally doable.
Last week, I had just been complaining about how this summer did not feel like summer yet. It had been rainy and cold, forcing me to wear thick layers and winter slippers indoors--in June! Upon coming home from a work trip across the country and seeing that there will be one sunny weekend day, DH suggested we go hiking. It was a glorious day. The sun played peekaboo through the thin clouds all day. The air was cool, the gentle breeze tickled our skin and whisked away moisture, and the tall trees provided shade and enveloped us in nature. We couldn't have asked for a better day.
Energized by lunch and excitement, we set off on the hike. The first part of the hike had wood-board paths. I wasn't sure why, as it seemed sort of unnatural to me. But soon enough, we were on a good old natural, muddy dirt trail. And I thought, this is how it should be! See? I've come a long way.
At the beginning, I trailed behind my peeps. I was busy capturing photos and taking in Nature and all its glory. Except we were warned by signs to avoid poison ivy, and once we learned how to identify them, we realized that they were indeed every-freakin'-where. Some leaves where bigger than my hand! I carefully steered DS away from them from all directions with my 360-Degree Mama Radar.
When we came to dirt paths, however, I steadily gripped DS's hand and walked behind DH and DD. Without the wooden boards, the trail was bumpy, uneven, and at times, very dangerous. There were stretches where two feet to your side was a drop-off of hundreds of feet. For someone who is afraid of heights, well, I may have survived those parts at the expense of DS's hand perhaps hurting. A little bit. We had to navigate across some very muddy grounds, slippery stone steps, sandy areas, and even balance on logs to cross a tiny river. But we all made it out okay, hand-in-hand.
But after the treacherous, steep parts, we came to a path along a river, and the concrete path was straight and easy. And that's when I began to stride in my pace. Anyone who has walked with me might remember that I happen to be a fast walker. At the mall, I constantly have to stop
But near the end of the trail at about 2.6 miles in, I was clearly running out of steam. The very end was an uphill slope to reach a set of stairs to go up on a high point to see the magnificent view. Here I was, worried that the kiddos would be too tired to complete the 3 mile hike, and they were the ones ahead of us, running up the stairs to reach the top while I had to
It occurred to me that soon, hand-holding would be for our sake--the parents'--rather than for the safety of my young children. Soon, they would be the ones waiting for us, and we would be the ones holding them back. And even though that time has not come yet and is hopefully still a ways away, a tiny flash forward of it made me taste a touch of melancholy, though in a good way. So this is what it's like to be aging in front of your burgeoning children. This is how it feels to see your children ahead of you, flapping their wings and ready to take flight. You can only hold their hands for so long before letting
Life works in amazing, cyclical ways.
My momentary glimpse of the future ended as we finished the hike and sat down for a cold, sweet reward: ice cream. I watched the kiddos eat their ice cream the way kids do--deliberately and with much enthusiasm--and I knew that I still have many more years before I have to let go.
So, Dear Walk, whether we traipse, tread, or parade across paths, trails, or open roads, we accomplish your task of getting from one place to another. But what we learn and realize over time is that walking the path of someone you love makes our own movement all the more interesting, meaningful, and profound. I have once walked my children's paths; one day, they will walk mine.