“Do you want to go on a desert adventure?” I asked my daughter. There were some conditions – those reasonably imposed by an 8-year-old whose mother passive-aggressively forgets to pack cookies.
“There are adventures right here,” she said sagely. “But not desert adventures.”
Nothing exposes you to the wisdom and weirdness of a child like spending 20 hours in a car with them.
It was 4 a.m. and we were blazing down the freeway getting the mileage of a Model-T (studded tires, more bikes than passengers), and my daughter first explained the difference between “whipping” and “nae nae-ing,” and then her future to me.
It is a window into her person that I never have the opportunity to see…unless we’re stuck in a tent on the soggy Oregon coast for a week, driving across country, or climbing a volcano.
“I’m going to be a doctor of books,” she said. It occurred to me that her dreams, her hopes and her wishes were things we seldom had time for during the bustle of the week. We’re too busy packing lunches and folding laundry.
She told me about a report she wrote on tiger sharks. It never made it home from school, but as far as I could tell, she knew more about tiger sharks than Wikipedia had to offer. It took us all the way to Nevada.
As we drove past the ceaseless landscapes, she explained to me what types of mountains she likes to climb – those with less exposed routes to the top, good views, and that only take part of a day to climb. I had never bothered to ask before. We just headed up whatever destination I chose.
These are the adventures that bring us together and bond us as a family. We’re just two, but we make enough memories to supply a village.
There are memories of getting lost in the Cascades and lying. “I can tell when you’re lost, Mom. We weren’t even supposed to be on the PCT.”
Memories of waking her at sunrise. “Are we going to summit today, Mom?”
Memories of those times I realize she is her own person. “Can’t we go to a museum sometime instead of always being outside?”
There has been a lot of dragging-along-on-adventures. It began the time I nearly gave her frostbite in the hills of Ireland and continued with some pretty sketchy river crossings in a baby jogger. Then came trail scouting for summit routes and taking her to base camp.
Two days into driving and I had not tired of hearing her tell me her stories. She is, however, tired of listening to Charles Dickens.
“Whoa, Mom! Can we take a break and climb that hill to the giant cactus?!?” She’s right. Her doctorate in literature can wait. There are adventures to be had.
If ever you were to make a New Year’s resolution, make one to go outside with your loves more. You will learn things about them you could never imagine. You will write the stories of your lives together. And who knows, you may discover a thing or two about yourself.
As for me, I just learned that I like to climb little desert hills, that cacti are perhaps the most bizarre of plants, and that my daughter knows more ABBA lyrics than I do.
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