Tuesday, July 3, 2012

an adventure with my baby brother last thursday.

I'm reading the waiver, even though I never read waivers. I get it, it's my life, you don't want the responsibility. I usually scribble my name with flourish, grinning in the process, ready to stretch my own limits again. Not today. No, today I'm reading the waiver, actually forming the words silently with my mouth, which has gone dry, by the way, due to the number of times 'unsupervised' is appearing.
I glance over at Charlie and, just for a second, I wonder how much he would hate me if I backed out right now. How long can an eleven year old really stay mad? He'll forget by tomorrow, right? Next week, maybe? No. He won't forget. None of us forget things like this, we're Drakes, our memory is impeccable. Seriously, though? No helmets? Completely unsupervised? 40 feet in the air in places, with harnesses and zip lines and safety lines that we ourselves have to secure onto wires and strings suspended between the trees? A fifteen minute training? That's it? And I have to sign this form saying I acknowledge that I am 100 percent responsible if anything should happen to harm a single hair on my baby brother's head, high up in the trees? God damn. I should have gone to bed earlier/not drank so much last night. I'm already sweating.
I'm not even new at this. I've done high ropes courses before, at summer camp. And I've been on long, high zip line courses, in Hawaii. So has Charlie. Plus, we're doing this for fun, right? A fun adventure... I took the day off so we could hang out together. And do this. This crazy, dangerous, unsupervised thing. For fun.
Fun, my aunt Fanny. I'm feeling shaky.
I push it all away for a moment and force myself to sign the form. Again and again on all the lines. I print Charlie's name. I take full responsibility. I shoot a bewildered smile at my mother, who looks completely unperturbed on the other side of the picnic table. In fact, she may even be smirking at my reaction to the waiver. She's had a bit more experience than I have at the whole parenting thing. Apparently watching your children walk and bounce and skim through the trees, forty feet over your head, while left to their own devices to make sure safety lines are properly fastened and functioning is just a walk in the park.
I am suddenly one hundred percent positive that I would be an unfit mother at this point in my life.
But I signed the form, so I guess it's time to make an effort. We wiggle into our harnesses and let the staff tighten us in. I make sure Charlie is listening to the instructions so many times that I have no idea how I actually heard them myself. We do the practice course from the ground and the instructor who looks about sixteen gives a a three question 'quiz' that anyone with a functioning brain stem could pass and then she lets us do the baby zip line to make sure we know how to land... and she she says "Have fun!' but to me all it sounds like is "Go with God, Sucker!" And then she disappears and we're surrounded by trees and ropes and wooden platforms but no authority figures or trained personnel and I guess it's time to get on with it.
Charlie beelines it toward the first station and I follow, slowly. My knees don't feel very stable. Certainly not stable enough to climb that tall ass ladder and remember all the steps in the instructions and make sure Charlie makes all his harness connections correctly and make sure we're both securely and safely connected at all times. If I were by myself, I'd already be swinging in the trees, seeing just how safe that safety line really is, letting go, swinging around with all my weight. testing it. But suddenly, this other person has been thrust upon me, and despite my love for him, I can't help but remember that his nickname is "Squirrelly" for a reason. He's got a short attention span, minuscule. And a knack for not listening to a goddamn thing anyone says. Then I glance at him, and he's so eager and excited, and I promise myself that if we make it through this, I will definitely allow myself a nap this afternoon.
So I watch as Charlie climbs the ladder and I'm strung so tightly that every single move I make feels jerky and I swear to everything good in this world I've never in MY LIFE felt more compelled to follow every rule without question. We're held to the course by two lines that you have to unattach and reattach to the next portion of the course separately. I remind Charlie "One at a time, buddy," so many times that he starts rolling his eyes at me, and the one time I consciously hold myself back from saying it, he tells me he's really proud of me.
We inch through a course, me following as I wring my hands and we pause every now and then so that my mom can snap pictures of us from the ground. And my hands are steady, but that doesn't mean my nerves are calm, not at all. I am shaken to my core. Because I imagine being suspended in the air with a tiny person always ten feet in front of you and already moving onto the next super unsafe thing and only two small lines of security and no solid ground to speak of are maybe metaphorically what parenting feels like every single moment. And yeah, I like to take risks and throw myself around haphazardly and do stupid shit for the hell of it, but that feeling of fear and responsibility and constant, "Please get us through this in one piece." Yeah, that's something I want no part in right now.
So Charlie and I climbed, and obstacled, and ziplined all over the forest that day. And every now and then, he'd look back at me and exclaim, "This is so much fun! Thanks for doing this with me, Sare!" And I'd take a breath and let myself take my eyes off of him for one second (but not two) and realize how beautiful everything looks from high in the trees and I'd bounce along the obstacles and catch myself smiling or yelling out a battle cry as I swept down the zipline, hitting leaves and rays of sunlight on my descent. And I'd enjoy it for a moment. Just a moment, and I'd remember I was doing this for fun too.
But the moment it was over and I tousled the top of his head on solid ground, that was the real pay out. I've never been more relieved in my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment