Monday, May 31, 2010
And a Good Time was had by All
We had a “family day” today. It’s Memorial Day, and Mr. Grumbles and I did not have to go to work. The kids had a holiday from school, too, so we headed to my old summer stomping grounds; to Greenwood Pond, where my father grew up, and where most of my kin still live. We spent some time on the water, both together in a row boat, and individually, in kayaks. We had a picnic lunch there in the shadow of Borestone Mountain; an Audubon Sanctuary, and the first mountain I ever climbed… way back in the Dark Ages when I was eleven years old. Then we drove around the mountain to Onawa Lake, and walked the rail road tracks until we reached the Onawa Trestle.
The trestle is an awesome piece of engineering, and my grandfather on my mother’s side had a hand in creating some of the rock cuts that the Canadian Pacific Rail Road runs through in order to cross the canyon which the trestle spans… the canyon created by the stream which is the outlet to the beautiful Onawa Lake.
I have been crossing the trestle since I was a child. It is an important monument in my family’s history. The night my parents married back in 1960, they had to cross the trestle to get to the remote camp where they were spending their honeymoon. One of them refused… chickened out… and climbed all the way to the bottom of the ravine, waded across the river, and climbed the steep wall on the other side. I’ll never say which one of my parents got cold feet, for it’s a source of embarrassment for the poor man. (And when I say “cold feet”, I mean exactly that! October river water here in Maine is some nippy!) As you can see, the Onawa Trestle is a part of my heritage.
I’ve taken all three of my children onto the trestle, and more than once. At one hundred and fifty six feet from railroad tie to the stream bed below, walking across that long span is a thrill. One’s focus is sharp when one looks down on the crowns of full-grown trees, and when there is nothing between the creosote-covered ties but air. No crushed rock, no terra firma… just 156 feet of air.
You all know by now that I am a neurotic mother. While having the desire to let my children experience many of the same things which I did in my childhood, I simply can’t relax and have fun while doing it. I am convinced that they will fall, will trip, will blow over the side. I’m positive the locomotive will come barreling down the tracks, it’s shrill whistle blowing, warning us to hurry and run to one of the three “step out” boxes which are spaced (way too far apart) along the trestle’s length. These boxes, by the way, have simple two-by-fours for railings, and trust me… they aren’t very solid. I could wiggle every one of them! (Of course I had to jiggle them! I was making a POINT! I’m a MOTHER, you know...)
So, as exciting as the prospect of walking the trestle seemed on the surface, I tried my darnedest to spoil the experience for everyone. The last time I took Josie and Eli on this same excursion, they were eight and six years old, and I could crush their hands in mine was we staggered and minced our way towards the mid-point. (Aw, heck. Even back then, Eli wanted to trot ahead… not one ounce of fear in the boy. Idiot child…) But today, they are fifteen and thirteen, and they wouldn’t hold my hand if I was dying. So instead of keeping a tight physical hold on them, I had to resort to “control by command”.
In layman’s terms, I bitched.
I hollered, I threatened, I whined.
“Keep back from the edge!” “Don’t touch that railing!” “Don’t walk so fast!” “Stop! What’s that noise?” “Don’t spit!” “Move towards the middle!” “Not that far… what if the train comes?” “I said, don’t spit! I don’t care how long it takes to reach the ground, it’s gross! What if someone’s down there?” “Dammit, get back from the side!” “The other side!” “Stop! Do you hear that? It might be the train!” “For God’s sake, will you stay away from that railing?” “If you spit over the side one more time, I’m gonna rub your nose in it!” “Judas Priest! Get away from that railing!” “Oh, my God, I think I hear the train!”
And a wonderful time was had by all.
Aw, heck. I don’t know how to be one of the “cool” mothers. I’ve tried. I really have. Why, before we went to the trestle, I let the kids take kayaks out all by themselves. So what if I had to swim alongside them? It’s a free country! They don’t own the pond! And none of their friends will know, unless they tell them, right? I certainly wouldn’t embarrass them by blabbing.
Anyway… we made it. Everyone was grumpy by the time I herded them back onto solid ground, but that’s what “family days” are all about. It’s a time of bonding, and of creating lasting memories.
I can’t wait to hear what their version of the day will be a few years from now.
Top photo was taken from the middle of Greenwood Pond in Elliotsville Plantation, Maine, with Borestone Mountain rising above it.
Second photo is of the Onawa Trestle, above Lake Onawa.
Third photo is Josie-Earl and Eli Pease, standing on the Onawa Trestle with Borestone Mountain in the backgroud. Note the smiling faces...
Fourth photo is of Josie and Eli paddling kayaks on Greenwood Pond.