Thursday, April 1, 2010


Within moments of the start of spring break, my children started in with the: “what are we gonna doooooo today?” On the first Saturday morning, despite the fact that we had been out to dinner the night before and had really fun plans for that evening, the question was begged. I made a few suggestions, offered a few options for nearby outings I was willing to undertake. The one that seemed the least offensive to my spoiled, media brainwashed appreciative offspring was a scooter jaunt, but they wanted to go somewhere new, somewhere we’d never gone before. Hmm. Okay, well we’ve lived here for nine years, but I was willing to go along with the fantasy that there was some secret avenue within scooting distance that we had yet to discover.

We set off, and I let the kids direct our turns and tried to keep up without a scooter of my own. They would inevitably turn back at the end of each street, chagrined to report that the hopeful corner actually led back to our street. Funny how blocks work that way. They were losing hope.

I remembered that there was a cul de sac a couple of blocks up that was big and kind of tilty, and might provide some scooterific fun for the delicate young royalty. We headed over.

When we got there, the kids informed me that they had been here before, with Daddy, and he had promised that next time they came, they could go explore the canyon! Yay!

Shit. Okay, I was not prepared for a canyon hike, I was in flip flops and my girl was in Uggs. I carried nothing but a hardcover library book and a can of seltzer. We had no sunscreen; and we had the scooters, for the luvva!

But what were the odds that we would actually find a place we’d never been before, right in our own backyard? And it was really pretty and inviting.

There was a bit of a trail, which I suspected would run along the backyards for a block or two before looping back up to the street, so we brought the scooters along. Yay!

It was a great feeling to traipse along that pretty path, I thought about Richard Louv’s work and my sister Julie’s affinity for trail hiking and exploring nature with her kids. I planned a better day for exploring this canyon when we would be a little more prepared, this canyon was huge, we could make a whole day of it! We could use a compass and carry canteens. Yay!

As we walked, the trail split and half of it went down into the lush, green canyon toward the top of big palms. It looked very tropical and welcoming and adventurous. We had to check it out. My girl was ahead and my boy in the middle, I brought up the rear.

Suddenly my girl stopped and exclaimed: “Ew! Look at those clothes!” She had come across a pile of clothing and was, of course, horrified at the possiblity that there was a naked person nearby.

My brain: redflag alert alert chelsea redflag murderers amber ohmygod alert summer redflag danielle alert holyshitgetusthefuckoutofhere

My mouth: “hey guys, let’s head back up this way!”

And there it is. The death of exploration.

I know that we can’t live in fear, and we can’t assume that our kids are safer at the asphalt playground than deep in our neighborhood canyon. How can we parents possibly survive in this world where monsters prowl? How do we let them out of our sight, or take them to explore nature, or celebrate their independence when the vision of a mother’s raw devastation haunts our memory?

I know, I know, I know, I know. We just do. We pray and we plead and we hope and we trust. We do what we can to help our kids find the way to be smart yet free, careful yet spontaneous, safe yet brave. And we try to slay the monsters.



Me, You, or Ellie said...

Maybe the pile of clothes was just the sign of someone sunbathing nearby, au naturale?

That's what I choose to believe anyway [crickets].

Nice job, Jacquie. With the post and with the chitlins.


Pat said...

My first thought was that there was a lovely couple nearby playing Adam and Eve. Shows you my innocence.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

It could have been something as innocent as a naked suntan or boom-chicka-wow-wow, I actually think it was the edge of a homeless encampment. My warning systems went all kinds of crazy, undoubtedly affected by the local news lately. We were too far to be seen from the road.


ahhh...vitamin D time in PA said...

I would have been thinking homelessness but, with the news out of San Diego, I'm with you on cutting the walk short.
What will you do when they are old enough to be out exploring alone?? I so want my kids to have the same carefree childhood that I had so avoiding 24 hr cable tv stations and saying a few prayers might be the best way to go.

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone stole them from a backyard clothesline. No? Well, maybe... you never know. hee hee

Danger Will Robinson..... Danger!!

The Blue Ridge Gal

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Nature, yes, such a fine line in a giant city.

I'd have done just what you did -- get the hell out of there. Why risk it? I really believe people are for the most part good, but some people are not, perhaps due to circumstances beyond their control, but still, not good, and a couple of whacks with that hardcover library book are only going to go to far....

I think Moki is a must on your next excursion.