There was an awesome conversation on Twitter today, all springing from this article @mallaisj sent me: http://mynorthwest.com/?nid=11&sid=493934 She made my day by thinking of me when she read it – I regularly take both my kids “bogging” and I’ve written about it lots. Today when @moirabrowne, @delilahevening and @campbellgord (all lovely tweeps, highly recommend you follow them) started tweeting about childhood barefoot summers, scrapes, stitches, and adventures, it reminded me of something from my ancient past.
It came from a book. It was so long ago I forget what the book was called. It was also so non-PC that I am sure it is no longer in print. It was a story of a family settling in the West. Clearing land, establishing their fields and farm and getting to know their neighbours, some of whom were native Canadians. The settler children would spy on the aboriginal children and one day they watched as the kids climbed trees in their special way (by non-PC I mean I suspect the book extrapolated and imagined the aboriginal way of life…).
I thought it sounded like a grand idea. The kids would climb a tree and hang onto the top while the tree gently bent, depositing them softly back on the ground. I was 8 the summer of 1980. That’s almost as far as I made it.
Off my sister and I went, headed back the fields for a day of adventure. Into the forest we ambled, me looking for the perfect tree, her wishing I would stop talking (I assume that was the case, it was a constant theme). Details are a bit fuzzy, but I recall her thinking it wasn’t going to work, and me scoffing at her. I climbed pretty fast – I had picked a Scotch pine so got to the top easily enough. It was swaying like I wanted – my weight alone was pulling it hard to one side – this was the plan! I held tight with both hands as close to the top of the tree as I could reach and I hopped off the branch.
Plummet is a strong word. I couldn’t have weighed more than 60 pounds and weight like that doesn’t plummet, per se. However it does head for the ground quicker than you can blink from 15 feet in the air when it’s dumb enough to step off a tree. I remember a “snap” then I registered hitting the ground with my shoulders first. My knees smoked me in the head and I guess you could say I crumpled. Someone was screaming, but I knew it wasn’t me because I couldn’t breathe. I was, however, still holding the top two feet of the tree. That factored strongly in the re-telling of the story over the years: part of my plan did work, in that I was still holding the tree when I reached the ground.
My poor sister. Quite convinced I was dead, she was shaking me, sobbing, asking me to say something. If you have ever had the wind knocked out of you at the same time you double knee-punch your face, you know it takes a moment to say “I’m okay.” Air gradually returned to my lungs. She helped me to my feet and we stood, alternatively looking at the dent in the ground and the now shorter yet seemingly higher tree.
I truly don’t recall much else from that day in particular. I imagine I dusted myself off, and got on with the business of being a kid. I know I relished the childish feeling of satisfaction for having tried in the first place, and I know in the years since I have tried other things I’ve read in books with varied results. I certainly hope my kids don’t have similarly painful/dangerous lessons as they grow up, but I am doing everything I can to get them outside, up trees, and lost in the pull of their imaginations. As long as none of their adventures leave them lying stunned on the ground, I will feel like I did my job.