He said it was strange, this trail.
We walked through the ponderosa pine forest, pushed him in a sturdy jogging stroller. Damp weather enlivened the scent of their needles and heightened the green of the miniature ferns, lush mosses, and tiny wildflowers – bluebells and shooting stars – along the trail.
My son was half a year from four, his cousins only a bit older but scampering ahead on their own with excitement.
“I want to go back to the car! Take me back to the car!” he yelled over and over. We pushed on.
I began hiking this trail around his same age. It is the trail of my childhood.
I thought he would love it.
But he didn’t.
I was confused and saddened.
The landscapes he was familiar with were the beaches of Central California and the enormous sand pit in our backyard. The desert climate of our San Joaquin Valley home. The playground at the park. The mosquito-laden humidity of Houston, where he was born. South Dakota was where we visited in the summer.
He hadn’t been immersed in the forest from his earliest days as I was. And so, it was strange to him, this place that is home to me.
We reached the turnaround point. A swarm of tiny moths distracted and cheered him for a bit as we crossed the tar-sealed wooden bridge over the deep river chasm. Their white wings caught the light as they scattered in the air. But when they left, he continued to insist that we go back to the car. His dad hurried off on the trail with him while I lagged behind and saw how truly comfortable my little nephews and niece were in the woods. This was their home.
We live here now. It is very strange, this path that has brought me home again. I haven’t liked the long, demanding spiritual and emotional hike. I have cried a lot and wanted to go back to life before divorce and financial insecurity. I have not liked the exposure to a completely unknown and new way of life. I have resisted the challenges. It is a familiar path to many, but I don’t want to be on it.
But the last time we walked the forest path of my childhood, three years after his first visit, he packed his own little sack with snacks and water bottles and brought his hiking poles along. He kept up with his cousins and didn’t complain once.
I am learning. I trying to remember to not complain, to adjust to my new family environment. I am learning to prepare myself, to pack what I need and bring along my metaphorical hiking poles for support along the way. My endurance is growing. Now, my pack is actually quite fully stocked with what I’ve gathered along the way as I’ve grown.
What unexpected trails in your life have you had to travel? How did you adapt? How have your children adapted?
More from me on navigating life during/after divorce: