May 11, 2002 - Saturday
My story today is pretty sappy, but I suppose so are a lot of the joys of parenting on the surface. It starts out in the late afternoon on a day when the four of us had gone for a long but unsuccessful morning walk to find the neighborhood cows with me carrying Harry much of the way and after a shorter afternoon walk during which I had also carried Harry much of the time. I'd been encouraging him to walk through the woods, thinking he might enjoy finding rocks and sticks and plants on the ground, but he seemed more interested in me carrying him. I tried holding his hand to steady him across the undulating forest floor and on the possibility that it was just my attention he was after, but he has constantly resisted that. So, partly to give my back a rest and partly just to let Harry be a boy, he and I lingered by a lengthy mud puddle formed in the tire tread marks of a little used dirt road after his mother had returned to the cabin to both nurse Jeremy and start our spaghetti dinner.
A boy can go for a long time playing with a muddy puddle and that was fine with me, save the constant anxiety that he might fall in, getting all muddy, and crying all the way back to the cabin about being cold, wet, needing to be carried . Harry did seem to teeter on the edge a couple of times, but did not fall in. Still, his hands got muddy from picking sticks and rocks out of the mud and his boots were covered with wet mud enough that they would have certainly soiled my shirt were I to carry him home. So, when it was time to head home for dinner I was prepared to flatly deny carrying him, at least while we were on the road and effectively told him that before we started out. It was a passing comment really, about how his boots were muddy and that would get my shirt muddy, but I didn't for a second expect that the thought would linger past the dying sound of my voice disappearing into the forest. Some five minutes later after we started out, and after the minor thrill of navigating our way back under and through the fall trees in the background of the above picture, I fully expected Harry to insist on being picked up. He did not and we started to walk up the old dirt road that would lead to another dirt road to the cabin.
"Hold my hand, dad."
"Sure, I'll hold your hand, Harry," I said with complete surprise at what he'd proposed and we started up the long gradual hill toward the road that leads to the cabin walking slowly and holding hands.
It's some 200 yards to that road, then a right angle turn up the next road for perhaps another couple hundred up to the cabin. Normally, I'd cut through the woods to shorten the distance, but the terrain would be much more difficult and Harry would certainly need to be carried. I figured we walk a ways and when he asked me to carry him I'd start to cut into the woods. He never did. He held my hand the entire way up the first road, did not let go even as we past another big mud pile, and held on until we reached the final, very steep hill right below the cabin's front porch. All together it must have been more than a 10 minute walk at Harry's pace. We talked about the woods, the birds, the cows, and the puddle and I must have smiled the whole way.
"Can you pick me up, Dad?" he said at the bottom of that final slope.
"Sure, Harry, I'll pick you up."