Yesterday it was warm enough to climb the ridge behind my home without a jacket, just a brilliant orange scarf wrapped around my neck like a flame. It’s not a long walk, but halfway up the trail gets steep and then is crossed by fallen trees. Several years ago one of the trees fell–a white oak–and I would either climb over it or walk the long way round. Now the fallen oak has shed its bark; it is soft and moss-covered and lays upon the earth. I can merely step over it. I don’t know why that’s important except that it marks how obstacles deteriorate over time.
Halfway up I here an engine below, climbing up the trail. It is my thirteen-year-old son, and he’s chasing me on his mini-bike, which is like a small motorcycle with fat wheels. Apparently he has decided, a little late, to accept my invitation for a walk, and is using this machine to make up for lost time. I wait for him.
He is all smiles. We climb the steepest part together, slipping on leaves and breathing deeply. He recounts the time he slid down the leaf-slick slope and ended up in flips, and considers a re-enactment, which he thankfully decides against. He praises our dog Simon for his cheerful ears and gleeful jumps and admires his eager nature. On the way back he finds a good swinging vine–a more thrilling undertaking than sliding down the mountain–and swings from it again and again. He is all smiles. “We should all do this tomorrow–as a family!” he announces as we come in sight of our home.
Later, after dinner, we are all piled up on each other with blankets and pillows. The latest issue of The Sun Magazine arrived in the mail and I have been reading aloud selections from Readers Write. The theme is keepsakes. As usual there are some real gems.
Later Denali places his hand on my shoulder. “Thank you for homeschooling me,” he says, his voice sincere and kind.
I lift my eyes to his and respond, “You are welcome.”
He goes about his business and I return to my magazine. But I am moved by his tenderness and gratitude. Homeschooling has been a huge undertaking for me, as it is for any parent that chooses that path. It has been an uphill climb more often than not. There have been many fallen oaks and slippery slopes. But also swinging vines and frolicking pups. I do not regret one moment of the chaos. I know that our time is ending–whether or not he goes to high school next year like he is considering–he is growing into himself, stretching his wings, getting ready to soar, and his hand on my shoulder is my keepsake, something to hold onto as I learn to let him go where he wills.