For 39 seconds, I am careening completely out of control, laughing hysterically as sled and snow meet, bounce away and meet again. When I stop-- by tipping over into a hard pack snow, more or less leaving a side profile of my face in it-- cheers erupt from the top of the hill. My children are elated. Both because I sailed (in my mind, like an X-Games rock star) over The Jump they built, and also, because I bit it at the end. What a perfect combination.
We've been at this, running up hill with hard punch-crunch steps through our white-washed field, a long time now. I can tell because there is a steady river-- the kind with a fast moving current-- of clear snot running down Elizabeth's nose and Max's long blond hair has little snow dreds between his helmet and shoulders and Noah is smiling a Real and Genuine Smile. He's almost 13 you know. And today was one of *those* days.
It didn't start out that way: the sullen, angry, back-and-forth barbs came after a morning of homework and work being done side by side, of talk of the new school (a homeschool co-op meeting four days a week for upper middle and high school) and what he missed while away. Those moments were all man-I-love-you-big-kid sighs. We'll skip the bickering source and resolution, because at 12, you get a free pass on Mom telling your life stories on the Internet. Instead, let's cut to my favorite (funny) part of the arguement:
me: You know what, this is not up for debate. And if it were, you'd be losing, because your entire argument is flawed, faulty, unsound.
Noah: while that may be true in your opinion, politicians seem to be full of faulty arguments and they win elections. I mean, remember Palin?
Me: She didn't win.
Noah: Well, yeah, but I still see people with her name on their bumper all the time here.
Me: Don't remind me.
Noah: So technically, I'm probably better than a politician because I'm at least aware of the potential flaws in my arguement. Did you hear the schtick on What What Don't Tell Me about Mitt?
me: um, you are changing the subject.
Noah: No, actually, I'm backing up my point. Which would make your previous statement faulty. Therefore I think by default...
me: GO. OUTSIDE. NOW.
An aside: during all this loveliness, Max and Elizabeth had been reduced to WWF fighters. Should they ever opt to pursue a career in wrestling, I believe Max would be The Pioneer of Fake Crying and Elizabeth would be the Screaching Scoundrel from Sassville, but that's beside the point. Every move was producing a NO FAIR YOU TOUCHED MY SORE PINKIE TOE YOU BIG CHEATER I'M NEVER GONNA PLAY WITH YOU AGAIN YOU POOP! kind of conversation.
So I had two choices. A) I could say exactly what I did to Noah (which was: Go. Outside. Now.)
or B) get a bottle of wine and lock myself in the bathroom, allowing the natives to go Lord of the Flies.
Obviously, since I love them, I opted for A.
People have written books about the importance of time outdoors for many years-- there's even one about getting out for 15 minutes a day everyday (which I read and went-- why didn't I write this?!?). I'm not saying anything new here. It's just, well, sometimes my family forgets just how much better we do-- we all do-- with an extra dose of fresh air and open space on days when "poop" and "teen angst" seem to be the buzz words.
Now I'm looking up the hill at these three people who came from me-- actually came from me!-- and they look so small. I smile. I find myself hurrying toward them, and of course, as I do, they return to their not- in-the-distance sizes. Two of the three were carried often down this very hill, tiny babes curled against my chest. I remember. I remember Noah, at six, taking his first wobbling adventure down into the pumpkin patch on cross country skis. And more: golf cart rides with Uncle Pauly; mountain bike meltdowns so close to home; losing Elizabeth (for an eternity second, you know the kind) in the tall grasses; two boys' backs disappearing into the woods when I welcomed their request for unsupervised exploration for the first time. All these moments live here, in the ground we've come to know so well. On ground so ordinary and yet, so sacred. Someday, I'll step back here on a cold winter morning without the wild ruckus of small children to fill the air. Someday, I'll sled down this very hill alone, to remember.
Yes. Perspective changes when we walk out the back door. Indeed.