Girl was excited for a mountain adventure, and that’s what she and Boy got.
We left our place (on the coastal flatlands) Thursday morning when it was still raining, and after a respite from precipitation midway, it started snowing again on the way over the mountains. I knew we would miss dinner where we were going, and since we were evidently spending our Thanksgiving on the road, I asked the kids to think about the things we had to be thankful for, and try to just look at the mountains as much as they could, because they were pretty lucky to see them in the snow like that. That drive was something else; miles of narrow curving mountain-hugging roads, snow covered trees from the day before. When it started snowing again things got a little dicey, but we got there.
There was even more adventure when my Dad came down to the bottom of the hill to transfer our stuff and drive us back up to the house on the dirt roads, leaving our car seats behind (no way our 2-wheel drive rental sedan could have made it), but even my Dad’s 4WD lost traction on one steep icy curve, and we started sliding back down. Both kids were a little scared. He left us with the car running and the emergency break on, walked up the hill with the snow coming down and dark deepening, and got another vehicle and four more men. I transferred the kids to the second vehicle, crossing the steep icy road holding their hands. While we waited, my Dad’s friends helped him get unstuck.
Suffice it to say the kids hadn’t ever experienced anything like that before. Just sitting in the backseat of a car with lap belts on was a little alarming for them. But we got up to the house, and had some dinner.
We were staying in a four bedroom cabin with my parents, my brother, two sisters who have been friends with my folks for forty years, and one of their sons. Three brothers of those sisters, and their families, were staying in other cabins in the resort. Renting these cabins for Thanksgiving has been their family tradition for probably twenty-five years, and my folks have been their guest on a good number of occasions. Boy had been with us once before, when he was two, but of course he didn’t remember. Since Papa had to stay home this time to work on Friday, it was just the three of us, so Girl shared a bed with me, and Boy got to sleep in the upper bunk in his uncle’s room. He’d never slept in a bunk before, and was pretty excited about it. When we went to sleep it was still snowing.
The next morning the kids woke up before anyone else; I fed them a light breakfast of toast and yogurt from what I’d brought with me, since we were supposed to go for a big breakfast at 10 at one of the brothers’ cabins. Before then, though, I dressed the kids in their warm things and boots and let them go out with my Dad, who was shoveling the (very steep) drive so we could get out. Boy lost one mitten in the snow, and said that his feet were cold (not very surprising given that he was wearing rainboots). One of the sisters drove us to breakfast, and Boy said his feet were so cold they hurt, and sounded like he was going to cry.
When we got to the house (after another adventurous driveway) I snuggled Boy and Girl on the couch, and warmed Boy’s feet in my sweater. I told him a story about myself when I was a kid, which I almost never do. I told him that when I was a kid, most moms just told their kids to go outside and play, and be back for dinner, and kids had a lot of freedom to roam. We lived in house with a great big woods behind it, where there used to be a Boy Scout camp or something in the 30s, so there were lots of old trails and bridges over the little streams, even a log road (though who knows how old that was). In addition to the woods there was a pond, a rocky stream, and a field. That was my world. I told Boy that I named all of the paths and trails, and I knew where everything was. I told Boy that in the winter, when the pond froze, my friend and I would take our skates and go ice skating, being careful to avoid getting too close to the end where the stream flowed out. And sometimes, I told Boy, if we stayed too long and especially if my skates were getting too tight, I would lose feeling in my feet. And after I changed into my boots it would feel like walking on stuffed animals, and then on the walk home they would start to feel warm and tingly, and they’d hurt terribly. And I told him I could still remember so clearly walking home in the quiet, with snow on the trees all around, so happy but worried about my feet a little. I told Boy I loved those woods more than anything.
We all ate a breakfast of scrambled eggs, ham, grits, biscuits, chipped beef in gravy. The kids played with another little boy (a really sweet smart boy) of three years old. Boy got to use the apple peeler and help make an apple pie. We watched deer off the back deck.
Most of the family usually goes for outings on Friday, into town to shop, or for a hike at some nearby falls. We couldn’t leave the resort with the kids because of the car seats, but that was fine with us. I knew they wanted to play outside more. The plan was to drive us back to our cabin while the rest of the family went out for a while.
Boy and Girl got their warm things back on, and went out to play before we got back in the car. And this time, Boy just headed straight out into the woods, up the hill. I had to call after him to stay where we could see him, because he was already a tiny green coat against the snow.
He said he was following the deer tracks, because he knew they had to stay where the snow wasn’t too deep, and where it was safe to step. He said, “nature is our guidance.” He came back down and helped his sister up a little ways; she couldn’t go that far because her little legs are just too short.
When we got back to our cabin the Boy headed right back into the woods, down the hill this time. I followed with Girl. He was our leader, telling us where the better paths were. The wood were filled with downed trees and rocks under the snow. Boy was in snow up to his waist sometimes, climbing, sliding on his butt, exploring all around the cabin. We stayed out for an hour.
We came inside, I got their wet things off and warmed them up, and Girl started helping one of the brothers make chocolate covered peanut butter balls. But Boy asked to go out again, and this time my parents and brother and their dog joined him. This time, they said, he was even more adventurous. My dad seemed really tickled. Finally he came back in of his own accord, long after his Grammy and uncle were already back in, and there was so much snow packed into his boots that my Dad and I had to pry them off.
He didn’t complain about cold feet once.
Boy helped finish the peanut butter balls, they played ping-pong in the basement with their uncle, Boy did a puzzle, Girl went through a bag of jewelry her Grammy gave her, we had Thanksgiving leftover dinner with the whole family, Grampy read them a Sacagewea book, they went to bed.
This morning we got up, started another puzzle, ate a light breakfast, dressed and packed. We went back to the ‘breakfast’ cabin and ate french toast and bacon. Without even asking, Boy put his coat and shoes on and went outside. I told him that I didn’t have a change of clothes for him, and so if he got wet it might be a long day, but that I trusted him to make his own decisions. While I visited inside (and Girl played with her little friend) Boy was outside. Both times I poked my head out and called his name, he was right by the cabin, but he told me later that he’d been making his way down the long steep hill to the road, making sure to stay in the snow NEXT to the drive (since he had given me his word not to go in the road), and then standing next to the road, talking to walkers and joggers, and making his way back up. Several times. My funny kid. I’m so glad he got a little taste of that kind of freedom.
We said our goodbyes and thank you’s, and drove back over the mountains and home.