Blog Post Three: Wherein I am relieved that it was my own son who slipped and fell onto the treacherous rocks below…
Please fast forward a decade from Triumphant Blog Post Number Two. It is now the late 2000s, and publishing has been digitized, making my job as a travel and recreation writer much easier than I ever dreamed possible back when I was Barbara Hanson.
It was a few summers ago, and my assignment was to find and write about inexpensive places for families to share summer adventures. Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, Mass. is just such a place because it is, well, free.
My opening line to the story that was ultimately published in the Valley Breeze goes like this: “With a name like Purgatory Chasm, this place sounds like the perfect spot to send naughty children who are badly in need of a time out. But be forewarned, your children will love it here.”
And if you asked my son, Ben, if this is true, he would say yes, but with a caveat. It’s no fun at all when you fall off the chasm’s rocky wall and land on your back on a sharp-edged boulder and all your mother can do is exclaim, “Oh, thank God!”
Let me explain. My nephew, Jimmy, was visiting us for the week. Many of you moms out there are already nodding your heads in knowing recognition. In other words, I was in charge of someone else’s child, and I had to return him in one piece, or at least in as good a shape as he was sent to me.
At age 10, Jimmy and Ben were about the same size and wearing similar outfits as they scrambled about on the rocky slopes, climbing on enormous tree roots, hiding in small caves, searching for toads and salamanders, and following trails that led to rock formations with names like Corn Crib, the Coffin, the Pulpit, Lovers’ Leap, and Fat Man’s Misery.
They were having a wonderful time in that raucous way that only preteen boys can, and I relished their delight.
But when I saw one boy slip and fall and land on his back, my heart stopped and all of a sudden everything started to move in slow motion.
Purgatory Chasm is thought to have been created by the sudden release of dammed, melted glacial water near the end of the last Ice Age, about 14,000 years ago. If anything had happened to Jimmy, my brother’s child who was entrusted to my care, it would take at least until the next Ice Age for me to forgive myself.
The victim rolled off the boulder that broke his fall and groaned a little. “Ouch,” he said. I lifted the back of the boy’s shirt to examine the bruising and that’s when I saw it, Ben’s telltale freckle. This boy was my own.
All I could think was, “Thank God, you’re not Jimmy.” I was so relieved I must have said it out loud, because Ben looked at me quizzically, as if to say, “What kind of mother are you?”
I guess I’m an okay mom, but I’m a much better auntie, because Jimmy went home with nary a scratch on him, and very much looking forward to returning to Purgatory Chasm the next summer. Ben, not so much.