My Little Billy Goat by Margaret Hart
This week the weather in New England has been glorious, and my son has relished playing outdoors after school. I’ve been letting the usual homework routine slide, so he has more time to play soccer, ride his bike, and enjoy the warm temperatures. Yesterday, when I looked out the front door to call him for dinner, he was lying on the grass gazing up at the sky with his best pal from the neighborhood—it reminded me of when I was a kid, and didn’t have a care in the world.
I like my neighborhood. It reminds me of my childhood. Growing up I lived in a rural area outside Rochester, New York. In those days, it was farm land. Behind my house were thick woods, a stream, and hills. My current neighborhood is similar. It’s wooded, but not overly so. Our property is surrounded by water. A brook runs along one side, into a pond, and out along the other side, winding into the woods behind my neighbors’ yards and beyond. It’s a quintessential babbling brook, and I love hearing the water splash over rocks, when the windows are open in the summer. Our area was also once farmland. Which may explain why we’ve come to witness so many animals who instinctively traverse these woods and wetlands year after year, following a natural trail. Every season we watch as the wild turkeys take their young on a walkabout. And we have been blessed to have a spectacular Blue Heron make our stream a stopping and feeding point on her (or his) migratory journey for many years.
One of the prominent features of our property are several groupings of very large granite rocks. When my son was younger, I held him off as long as I could from trying to climb. But once he was about five or six, I had to let him go. At first we coached him on the best way to get up one of the largest rocks, following indentations where hands and feet can get a good grip. I hovered over him like a Hawk. My husband had to rescue him numerous times. Besides hovering, my role was to shout, “Get down now!” when he got too high up.
In my mind, climbing trees and rocks is a quintessential childhood rite of passage. I climbed everything when I was young. I was the highest climber at harvest time when the apple trees in my parents yard were weighed down with fruit, and someone needed to get up there and pick those apples. Most of the time, however, I remember sitting high up in the crux of the strong branches of my favorite tree, high up on the hill behind my house, summer breezes flowing through my hair, and enjoying my bird’s eye view.
So these past few days, when my son has climbed the big rock in our yard, and decided to stretch out and watch the world go by, it gave me a good feeling, even if I still have to close one eye.