I grew up in rural Alabama, as picturesque a childhood as you can imagine. My sisters and I played outside 24/7, went dove hunting with my dad in the Fall, swam in the Tennessee River in the summer, and completely freaked out if it ever snowed in our neck of the woods. "Going to town" was an ordeal, as it was at least 30 minutes away by a two lane road. Our grandparents lived close by at the foot of a mountain, and we spent lots of time at their house playing in their huge vegetable garden and watching copious amounts of cartoons simply because they'd let us.
At the tender age of 12, I first learned to drive my dad's four-wheeler (ATV to all you Yankees). Roads were no issue - we tore up the creek banks behind our house and ripped through the cotton fields to get to the tiny little airport about a 1/2 mile away. Sitting on the backs of the four-wheelers, trying not to burn our calves on the red-hot engines of the things, we watched the planes come in from crop dusting. Some of them flew so low on landing we had to cover our ears and could see the pilots like they were standing a few yards away. We loved riding those four-wheelers, and as I grew up and got an actual driver's license I had a hard time understanding ALL vehicles weren't all-terrain vehicles...
This past weekend, Finn got a taste of my childhood. Dad still has a cabin up on the top of the mountain and he and Caleb took Finn, Abby, and Anna (cousins) up to it on the four-wheelers. With no helmets. In about 45 degree weather with a pretty nasty wind. Oh, and no seatbelts...and did I mention NO HELMETS?? It's probably about a 30 minute ride up to the top and a 30 minute ride back down to the base. Caleb wanted to do a dry run to see if Finn would like it and, if so, plan some camping excursions this Spring.
They got to the top and built a fire. Naturally. Because that's what you do when you go to the top of a mountan.
And I wasn't there to see it. This is the kind of thing he should do with his Dad, I thought. And to have all his grandchildren up there for the very first time, all together, I think this was important to his Papa too.
I can't say I wasn't nervous back at Hotwheel Hacienda, thinking of the worst that could happen - but surprisingly I was mostly envious I wasn't the one experiencing it with Finn, watching his face as we careened down the rocky mountain face and splashed through giant mud holes. Caleb offered for me to go, but I know there will be other times... and there's always Eli. Thank God for brothers and second chances!
Eli enjoys strawberry yogurt as his mom frantically paces the foor and wonders if she will have to scrape her husband and oldest son off the side of a mountain...