Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Up to the Mountain

My first Mother's Day present arrived in a wrapped box three feet wide. Little seven-month old Mia gummed on a corner before I got a chance to unwrap my new baby carrier backpack with sturdy aluminum frame and immaculate blue canvas straps. The perfect gift.

It has been nine years since that happy day so I don't remember if it was my complaints about feeling housebound or just Dear Husband's wise intuition that spurred him to find me the precise thing I needed.

The carrier was more than just a tool to carry Mia while keeping my hands free and my sore back happy; it represented freedom. Now I could reclaim that important part of my life where every pine-scented breath was pleasure, where I had discovered the giddy high they call "mountain magic" when reaching the top of a steep pass, where I had found moments of epiphany and great beauty. And this time I could do it with a child in tow.

Mia and later, her little sister Nora, were easy burdens on the trail. In Grand Teton National Park, Randy and I laughed when other hikers would kid him about letting me do all the work.

"No, no, I want to!" I would insist as they passed. I could not explain. I was so happy to be in the woods with my family, the joy nearly lifted me like a balloon. The weight of the baby on my back felt like the only thing keeping me on the ground.

"I'm climbing to heaven!" I would call back to Randy.

Our ordinary days have been less easy. My girls and I have needed to tackle together hills of a different sort. They don't always have names, nor clear trail markers, and trying to bushwack a short-cut can leave you lost.

Mount Uncontrollable Weeping. Temper Tantrum Hill. Impatience Pass. Ugly Truth Trail. The North Rage Loop. Perseverance Creek. Loss of Heart Scenic Byway. Guilt Mountain.

This year, Mia's ninth and Nora's seventh, has had some gorgeous scenery and some rocky roads. Helping Mia learn to ride her bike was less challenging than helping her through her passionate disappointment when she couldn't. As we persevere through music lessons, I'm clinging by my fingernails to the cliff's edge of hope that they will still love music on the other side. Allowing Mia to walk to school alone takes both great feats of will and great suppression of my imagination.

Sometimes the summit seems only a mirage. Parenting is a mountain range, after all, not a single peak. But even without photos of triumph at the top, these trails we're climbing together are bringing us closer together. And making us a family.

This post was inspired by Patricia Ellis Herr's book, Up: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure. You can read more posts inspired by the book at From Left To Write. I received a copy of the book from the publisher with no obligation.


Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

What beautiful metaphors for parenting!

Lisa Hanneman said...

Always love your writing.