Good friends share an unspoken bond. Sometimes all it takes is a look, a knowing glance between like minds that says, I know what you’re thinking.
We were sitting in 12th grade Personal Finance when it happened. I looked at her. She looked at me. We both started giggling in the way only close friends can. Giggles became snorts. Snorts became belly laughs. Soon we were busting a gut in the middle of class, our dear favorite teacher taking it in stride, doing no more than looking at us quizzically. We were laughing the kind of laughter that makes your abdominal muscles hurt and leaves you gasping for breath. Like a bad case of the hiccups, there was no stopping this.
For at least a half an hour we spluttered and gasped, until at last class was dismissed and we went our separate ways with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts.
A ten-year-old Maverick walked down the beach glaring, holding the heavy rock. After we had gone about a mile, he was walking backwards and tripped into a somewhat deep, sandy tidal pool, immersing himself in cold salt water to gales of laughter from us, his family. He hadn’t seen the humor, and now he was toting his irritation also, it weighing him down like the rock he carried.
“Maverick, just put the rock down,” I had said before the incident. “We can pick it up on the way back.” He had declined. I didn’t know why he wanted to take it back to camp, and I had thought wherever he set it we would find it when we returned. Rocks don’t tend to move around on their own.
At one point he had asked me to carry the rock for him, but motherhood has its limitations. Maybe my job was to help him know when the burden wasn’t worth carrying in the first place.
As he trudged, dripping wet, back to camp, his ire surrounded him like a thick ocean fog. We tried to distract him with familial joviality, hoping to rouse the cheery Maverick who was with us moments ago, but this Maverick carried his humiliation and irritation like that rock, refusing to put it down.
I sidled up to him again. “Maverick,” I said gently, “what you did was funny and unexpected. If any of the rest of us had done it, we would have laughed as well. You are wet, but unhurt. Please, just let it go.”
He ignored me, in true ten-year-old boy fashion, toting both burdens all the way back to camp.
Thankfully, he eventually let each one go. The rock has been long-since forgotten, and falling into the puddle remains a funny family story that seven years later even he can now reluctantly appreciate.
It takes a lot of energy to carry a large rock for miles. It wears you out. The same is true with a grudge.
When we choose to carry a grudge, I think we feel like it will somehow affect the people who have wronged us, that they will vicariously feel the impact and be burdened as well. They may not even know you are carrying it at all.
We lighten our load in life when we choose to put aside our grievances, to forgive a wrong done to us, to pick ourselves up after a fall and walk with our head held high, and unburdening ourselves frees us up to walk arm in arm with those we love.
We sat on the edge of the canyon, blissfully enjoying the ever-narrowing slice of shade. Sunshine was by my side, understanding that a slightly overweight mom in her later years, though fit, might have a tough time scaling the Grand Canyon in the heat of the day. Maverick and Goose would soon leave us to run to the top and would be full of jeers when we finally got there. We really should have started earlier, but we were lucky to get a reservation in the park, and we wanted to enjoy the cozy, comfortable hotel just a little bit longer.
We were passing through on a mission. Sunshine was starting college next week in the Lone Star State. The boys and I were taking her there, making a road trip of it, seeing some of the desert southwest in the heat of summer, because who doesn’t want to do that? We had arrived at Grand Canyon National Park the day before, and I had set our agenda for the day. We would hike down into the canyon early, and then travel to our hotel in Flagstaff.
The cool morning beckoned us down the trail. We were loaded up with water bottles and plenty of M&Ms, but without a plan. Free for the day, we would just hike as far as we wanted before turning around and coming back up. The wide trail invited us to walk and take pictures. The rest stops along the way sheltered us and offered water. The squirrels and birds cheered our progress.
From one vantage point, we could see the three mile house. We were getting tired, but wanted a definite destination, so we set our sights on that. Here we would stop and dig into our fuel source, the M&Ms. The day was gorgeous, sunny, with a few high clouds. The tricky thing about the canyon, however, is that the closer you get to the bottom, the hotter it becomes. A day that had started out for us in the 70s was rising with every step down into the 90s, which is not terrible if you are hiking down, but we still had to make our way back up, and now it was getting close to noon. The warning signs along the way did not give me comfort.
We refilled our water bottles and shooed the squirrels away from the candy as we rested, the boys impatient to get moving. At some point, Sunshine dropped a couple of M&Ms on the ground and a flurry of squirrel warfare ensued, causing us to jump onto the ledge and earning us the ire of the more orderly hikers on the trail. After all, the brochure said definitively not to feed the wildlife. Now we knew why.
We looked up the trail. What had been so pleasant coming down now looked daunting. I had my personal list of killer trails: Vernal Falls in Yosemite, Mount Constitution on Orcas Island, and Iron Mountain closer to home, but none came close to this one, with an elevation change of over 2,000 feet in just three miles. I steeled myself and started putting one foot in front of the other. Round a corner, rest in the shade. Round a corner, rest in the shade. Sunshine was by my side the whole way.
Which brings me to where I started this story, almost at the top and having a clear picture of which child I could count on in life. As we made our way the last few bends and turns in the trail, the temperature shed its austere cloak and became more welcoming. We found ourselves encouraging other hikers who were finding the path equally difficult. We passed people coming down in all manner of dress, but none of them looked like experienced hikers, and passed a ranger who seemed to be at a loss, questioning them and turning some back, while at the same time inquiring about the welfare of the people coming up. Not a job I would want to have. As expected, Maverick and Goose were at the top, jeering at us and begging for ice cream.
We made it. We had hiked the canyon. (Well, part of it, but I’m counting it.) We paused for a quick victory photo and headed to the car. Ravenous, we didn’t look for a picnic spot. We unloaded the cooler and sat by the road on a downed tree, scarfing down the most delicious impromptu salami and french bread sandwiches. It was quite possibly the best food I’ve ever eaten. Hunger will do that to you.
We did finally make it to the hotel in Flagstaff, and judging from the red ring around the hot tub, were not the only people to have made this trek. For months after, I would put on my socks that retained the red smudge of the trail dust and remember our road trip. The canyon itself made an indelible mark on my heart, and I can’t wait to return, hopefully not in the heat of summer, to hike it again.
On the day after my 16th birthday, I was first in line at the DMV. I was so eager to drive, to get my dad’s red Cutlass under me and hit the road. I passed with flying colors, thanks to my dad’s expert instruction and a lot of time in a school sponsored driver’s education course. I was as excited as a child on Christmas morning, and I wielded my new license like my own personal trophy.
Despite having my license, I wasn’t allowed to immediately grab the car and go. My parents reluctantly let me make the small forays into driving independence with errands, including trips to the store right up the road. My parents created the provisional license long before the state mandated it. No friends in the car. Limited trips. But it wasn’t long before I was driving all of my friends around.
I didn’t always handle my new-found independence with a great deal of responsibility. I drove too fast and at one point raced a co-worker down a road on the way home from work, something I’m sure my dad would be thrilled to hear. And once I backed his car into a pole at Fred Meyer. But overall, life was good, and luckily I didn’t hurt myself or anyone else.
At sixteen I also had a part-time job at KFC. My co-workers were my friends, and we had a good time at work. We laughed while we worked and ate chicken on our breaks and drank endless graveyards. Though I disliked coming home with my brown polyester uniform smelling like stale grease, I had fun with these people and enjoyed interacting with the public, AND I was getting a paycheck! I could buy the clothes and shoes that my parents said were too expensive. That was also the year that I bought my Pentax SLR camera and taught myself how to take pictures, creating a lifetime of photographic enjoyment.
Sixteen was a good year. Having freedom, money, and no financial responsibilities, how could it not be?
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Only Sixteen.” Tell us all about the person you were when you were sixteen. If you haven’t yet hit sixteen, tell us about the person you want to be at sixteen.
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