For my birthday this year I wanted what I want every year — a long, relaxed walk in the winter woods. In the past, this has never gone well. My kids would come along reluctantly, complaining that it was a death march. They moaned, bickered and pouted. I would spend the entire time pleading, “But it’s MY BIRTHDAY,” as if they gave a damn. They did give a damn but they are kids and they didn’t give THAT much of a damn. So this year, now that my daughter is 13 and can be responsible (in theory) for herself and Milo at home, during the day for a few hours, I said “come, don’t come, it’s up to you, but Daddy and I are going for my birthday walk in the woods.” Milo said, “I’ll come.” Surprisingly, he took off his headphones, put down his 3DS, put on his shoes, a hat and a fleece and, smiling, walked out to the car. Not surprisingly, my daughter said, “No thanks,” and headed back to her lair, I mean room.
It was a cold, clear day. The trees were bare, the naked, heavy vines sinister as they twisted between the trunks. We took one of my favorite trails — it starts off wide and sloping, narrows through dense forest and leads you to a fast moving stream. I braced myself for Milo’s manic chatter about Pokemon characters and Sonic the Hedgehog. But it didn’t happen. He walked in silence for a while, then suggested we play a word game that I turned out to suck at, which isn’t as shocking as you might think. I’m truly only good at trivia games and contests that rely on your store of utterly useless information. I consistently lose any game of actual knowledge or skill.
But, this was a boon for me because I lost early and let myself lag behind Milo and my husband while they battled it out. I enjoyed their spontaneous laughter and the hard silence of the leafless trees. it was, as my daughter would say, the best birthday walk ever.
A few nights later we got a rare snowfall. It wasn’t sticking but it was coming down thick and wet. Milo was elated and convinced all of us to take a walk with the dog around the block in the dark and try to catch snowflakes on our tongues. Milo even put on socks (to wear with his crocs) and his winter jacket. We walked about half a block when my husband and my daughter, shivering and holding back twinned whines, turned for home. The dog quickly followed suit. I didn’t have a hat and my ears were cold, but Milo wanted to press on, and I wanted to be with Milo. Again he walked in silence, I walked in amazement at his silence.
At Milo’s insistence we stopped to watch the snow fall beneath a street lamp. Milo said, “It’s magic.” We walked on. Milo said, “I know you wish I would spend more time outside Mommy, or with you in the woods, but I want you to know that I do appreciate the wonders of nature.” I teared up, and felt the revelation of frozen water on my face. As we rounded the block toward our house, Milo grabbed by arm, stopped, turned his face to the sky and whispered. “I’m so happy.”
“Me too Baby, me too.”