This is the trail my sons and I walked with our dogs almost every day back when they were just little boys. At least, this is what it looks like today.
It was more than fifteen years ago when my three boys and I first headed out with our black lab, Raisin. After she died, it was with Super, our Akita, and then when the boys weren’t quite so little anymore it was the corgi, Friday, leading the way. He, more than any of the others, would bound over mossy logs and through bramble patches, undaunted, as the four of us explored these woods together.
When the two older boys were in high school, and walks with their mother became an unthinkable way for such cool customers to spend a morning, I could still count on my youngest to keep up the routine. I knew I’d lose him too, and soon, to the teenage world and so every time he and I set foot on this trail I’d think to myself, “just not yet, not yet.”
I’m not sure when he would have tired of our walks; surely before he finished junior high. I didn’t get to find out, though, because when he was about ten, the woods we’d come to think of as ours were logged. They were owned by a very old woman whose children had wanted, or perhaps needed, the income.
An understandable decision for them; a devastating one for us.
My youngest and I and Friday the corgi had walked out of those woods one weekend morning, only to find after school two days later that they’d disappeared. Leaving behind only scrub brush, ragged hunks of tree bark, and a few maple saplings.
The sight was so violent-looking that seeing it that one time was enough. We were heartbroken, and neither my son nor I thought we would ever be able to bear walking through them again.
That was almost a decade ago now, and just this spring I’ve started to walk in “our” woods again.
On this Mother’s Day I’m up early, out for a walk, and letting all the bittersweet feelings I didn’t expect to feel today, in.
These woods were decimated once, but they’ve returned.
All those beloved dogs who once walked with us are long dead, yet I have two-year-old Gretchen now, filled with glee and energy, to accompany me.
And although my oldest son lives hours away in Chicago, my middle one lives on his own, too, and the youngest is graduating high school in a couple weeks and off to college in the fall, that is the way life is supposed to happen.
The terrible truth of motherhood is that if you do it well, you make yourself obsolete. That’s the whole point.
At least on an everyday, take-a-walk-in-the-woods with your boys, kind of way it is.
The morning is cool and damp, Gretchen is trotting happily just up ahead, and mixed with the real sounds of birds returning to the woods I can still hear the excited and happy voices of three little boys, echoing.