The middle one is 18 and headed to college next month. I’m not sure I can let him go. Not because I’m feeling all mothery and clingy (though, that’s an issue, too) but because of stories like this one, about David Legeno, the Harry Potter star who died while hiking in the desert.
Why do people feel so drawn to explore dangerous places? Can’t you just watch a documentary about the desert from the comfort of your own living room? Nick certainly doesn’t think so. There is nothing he loves more than a spontaneous jaunt off the beaten path.
Nick is my daredevil. He wants to climb mountains and descend into caves and swim the ocean and then, maybe, sit down and have lunch before he sets out for an afternoon of skydiving and bull fighting. I’m forever saying things to him like, “Will there be a lifeguard on duty?” and, “No getting lost allowed,” and my personal favorite, “Try to keep from getting into a situation where you have to chew your own arm off.”
Once, on a trip to Vermont, Nick was patient while I took some notes for a travel story I had planned to write on the ECHO Lake and Aquarium Center in Burlington. I liked the place, not only because it showcased some unusual aquatic species, but also because it had a roof and four walls. It would have been tough going, indeed, to get lost or hurt in there.
The reward for Nick’s forbearance while I worked was a kayak trip out onto Lake Champlain. Once in his boat, he immediately headed for a small island out in the middle of the lake. To me, the island seemed a million miles away.
Nick paddled so fast, I couldn’t keep up. Soon, he was completely out of sight. He was 13, and I thought I’d never see him again. I had to call him on his cell phone to tell him to head back to shore. Digging my cell phone out of my bag while keeping my own kayak afloat was no fun, let me tell you.
So you’d think I’d have been prepared for a stop at Quechee Gorge on our way home. “Perhaps you boys would like to dip your feet in the water?” I asked Nick and his brother, but before I got all the words out, Nick had jumped in cannonball style and Ben was close behind.
Now, Nick is headed off into the real world, and I may not always be there to call him on his cell phone and to tell him to: a. wear sunscreen, b. check for ticks, or c. avoid getting into a situation where he has to chew his own arm off.
Please World, take care of him, and send him home to me in one piece.