Sunday, September 23, 2012


I love to walk. Well, now I do, but I never did when I was a little kid. When I was in kindergarten and first grade, Mom used to take me and my sister on hikes around where we lived in North Georgia. Sometimes she carried Allison, but she always made me walk all by myself on account of the fact that I was perfectly capable.  But all I remember about those hikes is standing in the middle of the trail, hollering at Mom's back as she walked away up the mountain.  Then I'd run after her until I could see her back again, and then I'd yell at her some more. Yet somehow, she had the patience to take me hiking a lot.

But all that was before Marilyn.

Mom had these friends named Marilyn and Bob who were my grandparents' age and childless, so they kind of adopted us: Mom, me, Allison, and our dog Moonshine Starshine. Mom became friends with them because Marilyn was the librarian at my elementary school and I was forever ruining the library books: I left them in the rain, put them places where Moonshine Starshine could chew them, I lost the ones I didn't injure. Eventually, Marilyn scheduled a parent-teacher conference to figure out how to foster my love of reading without costing the school system hundreds of dollars a year.  By the end of that meeting, Mom had Marilyn promising to babysit me and Allison three afternoons a week. 'Cause Annie Shields is that good.

Anyway, Marilyn and Bob were from Minnesota and loved to hike like you wouldn't believe.  They literally couldn't sit still for one second of the day.  You left Bob alone with a tree and he'd make a canoe out of it.  Marilyn was obsessed with expanding the collection boulders in their rock garden. She was a tiny little woman, but each morning she'd hustle up the mountain behind their house and work on unearthing a giant rock. When she'd done that, she'd work on inching it down the trail to the house over the course of a couple weeks.

Allison and I spent a lot of weekends with Marilyn and Bob, and each one was like it's own, special Bataan Death March. Marilyn would wake us up at 6:30 in the morning, we'd eat some Bran Buds with skim milk, make some PB&J's on whole-whole wheat, mix a couple bottles of Crystal Light, and take off up the mountain, looking for "flagstones."  When we started complaining around 10 a.m., Marilyn bribed/threatened us with pie after dinner: "A storbery-ru-baaarb pie!"  By the end of the day, Allison and I would each be lugging a huge (proportional to our size) rock down the mountain.  We'd also each have a temper tantrum (proportional to our size) when we found out what strawberry-rhubarb pie was, and then we'd sleep like children who had actually done something that day.  Because we had.

Anyway, because of Marilyn--or possibly in spite of her--I like to hike now.  I can also interpret and passably mimic a thick Minnesotan accent.

So, this week, Bryan, our friend Ricky, Odessa and I went to the Hike Inn in North Georgia.  It's this wonderful house in the woods that you hike 5 miles to, spend the night, and hike out again the next day.  Odessa and I did it by ourselves last year in a thunderstorm, and it was a formative experience for us both.  I felt like Gandalf carrying a Hobbit through Mordor.  Which I don't think Gandalf ever actually had to do, so I officially have the one-upsies on Gandalf.

This time, it was a lot better: we brought the mega-stroller and Bryan and Ricky helped carry her when the going got too bumpy.

It was really great, but I can't help thinking my mom--or Marilyn--would have made her walk by herself.  And possibly carry a boulder.

Orienteering has reached its zenith.

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