It was a perfect autumn evening, and the Mountain was beckoning. Some recent construction around our apartment complex had created a small deposit of dirt and rocks in one spot, and from that location, adventure called. This particular evening, we came equipped with a few plastic trucks and spoons for excavating. As we approached the site, the kids quickly scrambled to the Mountain's summit.
It was a perfect mountain: about a dozen feet high, mostly dirt with some good-sized rocks and several broken pieces of concrete slabs scattered throughout, ideal places to perch while climbing or digging. It was absent of broken glass, rebar, and other tetanus-laden hazards that might otherwise threaten the carefree explorations of a 3- and 6-year-old.
Back to the Future came out 30 years ago, and I was around the age then that my kids are now. As I watched them play, I smelled the dirt and remembered how much fun I had had when left to simply play by myself outside. A dirt mound, a small copse of trees, a cove of bushes, even a pile of rocks, all became places of potential magic and adventure.
As a child, some minute, perceptive part of my young mind knew that childhood was a one-way journey. And so –much to the chagrin of my mother-- I took advantage of playing in and exploring every dirt mound, every wilderness-like patch of woodland, any place that looked as though it held the remotest possibility of fun or adventure. And it made my childhood wonderful.
Now, the Engaging And Involved Parent part of me wanted to climb the Mountain and join my kids, to sit in the dirt, asking to be included in their play, in their world... but I didn't. I have already had that time of my life, and I enjoyed every bit of it that I could. Now it was time for my children to experience the joy and magic of being able to play free from parental intrusion. I needed to let them create those experiences on their own.
So I sat for an hour in the cool and slowly-fading autumn light and watched my kids from 10 feet and 30 years away, until it seemed as though my past, our present, and their future came together, and my heart filled with so much remembrance, peace, and joy that it ached.
It was absolutely wonderful.
This post is dedicated to my dad, who taught me from a young age to enjoy and experience life in every way I can.