Monday, September 17, 2007

Creek-ing With Age

More on Labor Day weekend... This time in Greendale, Wisconsin (aka The Bubble).

Whenever we go 'back home' and visit Hunter we like to go walking in the woods and take the pathways all around the historic village.

I grew up there, in the Originals section, as did my mom; so there's lots of personal history there -- and amazingly the kids love to hear the stories.

Sure, the little kiddles like the exploring (the eldest needs to be encouraged to trek about), but it's the stories.

"Mom, where did your grandpa live?" "Mom, is this where you went to school?" "Was this playground/rock/tree here then?" "Is this where you swam?" "Did you ride your bike on this path when you were my age?"

Of course I love telling them the stories too.

I also discover lots about the kids. Like when over that last weekend I told the kids to take their socks and shoes off to walk in the little creek.

Hunter couldn't believe I'd let him do it -- walk across on the stones, sure; but barefoot in it?! Does mom even know what she's saying?

"But my feet will get wet," Hunter hesitated.

"Babe, if you think your feet aren't already wet with sweat inside your socks and shoes..." I laughed.

"But I'll get mud and sand and stuff on 'em," he warned.

"So? Besides, we can always wash your feet and your socks and I'll show you how to get most of that off before you even put your socks back on," I promised.

He decided I might just know what I'm doing after all and eagerly began removing his shoes.

"It's gonna be cold," I said, "So you might want to stand on this rock here and test the waters with your foot first before just stepping into it." And then while he removed his socks I went over the practical reminders regarding looking for glass, sharp rocks etc before stepping too. He was barely listening at this point -- too excited to get in.

He plunges a foot in, "Whoa, that's cold!" he squealed.

"Feels good, doesn't it?" I said as I sat on the large boulder he just vacated to remove my own socks and shoes.

"Hairy rock! Hairy rock!" he screamed pointing at one submerged rock with mossy green growth floating out like strands of hair.

"You should touch it," I said.

"No! That's gross!" replied the 7 year old boy who usually flocked to 'gross' objects.

"It's just moss or seaweed type stuff -- plants. Your really should touch it, just to see what it feels like," I said.

He cautiously stuck a toe into it. "That's gross!" he exclaimed (with a little less volume than the pronouncement of "Hairy rocks!")

Now he was bolstered with confidence. He walked around, sometimes walking from rock to rock, other times putting both his feet in and letting his toes feel the creek bed.

"Dad doesn't let me walk in creeks."

"Well, you can't do this in every creek; it might not be safe. I know this creek and it's safe here. Plus, I know you'll do as I told you and look before you put your foot down, right?" (I can't resist the motherly reminders.)

"Yeah, he just won't let me," he sort of mopingly replied.

"What does dad say?"

"He just says it's dirty."

"Yeah, well, it's not a place you want to drink from. But it's OK."

"Did you do this as a kid, mom?"

"What? Walk in the creek?"

"Yeah," he said growing even bolder and walking in circles a bit further from me, still not more than 7 feet away or so in the water which barely made it past his ankles. I sat there putting my feet in a deeper pool of water until I couldn't take the cold and pulled them out to prop them on a sunny rock.

"Sure, I did. And that other spot, the one by my grandpa and grandma's house? Where there used to be a small waterfall? Well, I'd pack a bologna sandwich and hop on my bike and ride down here. Then I'd take off my shorts and tee shirt which were over my swimsuit and I'd soak in that pool of water under that really big tree -- the one with the roots that stick out -- and watch the sunlight which came through the leaves as it would shine in patterns on the water and watch the water spiders and other bugs. Until I was tired of that, then I'd eat my sandwich and read a book under the tree."

"Were there fish?"

"No, none that I've ever seen."

"That's too bad," he says, probably imagining fishing rather than reading.

Now Allie, the eldest has left the seats at Ferch's (where grandma was resting in the shade -- and where we'd have sundae's in just a bit) to join us. She struggles with the sloped sides of the creek bank so I go help her and encourage another child to take off her shoes and stick her feet in the water.

She too squeals as her feet hit the water, then says, "Wow, that feels really good."

Allie's sedentary nature means she's not moving from that rock to explore the creek like Hunter is. Instead, she sits there on the rock and yells out broken glass alerts. "Hey, watch out if you go over there," and, "There's another one!" she says pointing at bits of glass and things which could be glass (I suppose) here, there and everywhere.

"Hey, Allie, touch that rock there," I say, to distract her.

"Yeah, touch the hairy rock!" Hunter screams his challenge with the delight of one who's already met it.

At first she's reluctant, but the teasing from her little brother motivates her more than I. She squeals as she too reaches her toes to dart a quick touch.

I'm amazed at how ill at ease the kids are with taking such risks, at trying such things. Like no one wanted to touch those 'pancake mushrooms' which grow on the sides of the big trees.


I'll have to bring them back here in winter and see if any of them will dare to sled where we did, down that hill in the woods with fallen trees dragged over and packed to make bumps and ramps...
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