by - April 17, 2010

The Day Spring Stole Zander's Shoes
It was April and warm enough to feel like early summer.  Tulips had poked through.  The bleeding heart in the corner was getting bigger every day.  Trees were starting to bud.  Winter coats were already stored away.  Spring fever had taken hold of the neighborhood, manifesting itself in rakes and paint and window washing and baseball cards in bicycle spokes.

Beside our house is a one level seniors apartment complex and beyond that is a little gully full of sticks (and rotten potatoes, apparently) where Zander and his friends like to play after school.  We can see them from the kitchen window and he can hear us if we call from the back deck so we let them play as long as he's home by 4:00.  They have sword fights with sticks and see who can make the biggest potato bomb explosion and entertain the poor bored geezers leaning against their walkers, soaking up the sun.

Up the little rise from the gully is the Saugeen River.  Come spring time it's usually a high, rushing death trap from all the melted snow but because everything happened so early this year (what's so bad about global warming anyway???) the water was very low.  More than half of the river bed was "dry".  There's an island in the middle of the river and at first glance it looks like all you'd have to do is dodge a few mud puddles to get there and surely, upon this island, there would be bigger sticks and louder bombs; so, being the brilliant, gung-ho for adventure, don't-think-it-through boys that they are, they decided to set out for this new, unexplored wilderness.

They didn't get far.  The earth opened up, said, "I don't think so, fool!" and swallowed Zander's feet in a slough of thick, hungry mud.  And he was stuck.  Really stuck.  Enough to make him panic and think that he was in quick sand for sure and that he'd never get out and that mom would be so mad and he might die there or never get that new Pokemon DS game that he's been saving for because mom would make him buy his own new shoes which would be almost as bad as dying...I don't know what all went through his head but it was at least 10 minutes from the time I watched his head disappear over the edge of gully until it reappeared again.  That's an eternity to be stuck in the death grip of an unrelenting spring monster.

He managed to get his feet out, sans shoes.  They were swallowed whole.  And of course they were brown shoes and he was so close to the breaking point that he couldn't find them to pull them out.
He was like a dead man walking as he made his way home.  He was pushing his bike, jeans muddy up to his knees, white socks (that will never, ever be white again no matter what I spray on them) flopping against the sidewalk, making wet, splatting noises and leaving a squishy trail.  And he was trying so hard to hold it together, backpack askew, jacket hanging off one shoulder, taking deep breathes that shivered through his entire body.  He put away his bike and hung up his helmet and made the walk to meet the executioner waiting on the deck.

"What happened?"  Not condescending.  Not threatening.
"I (breath) got (breath) stuck (breath) in (breath) the (breath) mud...(sniffle, bottom lip quiver).

And I laughed.  It was horrible of me.  He was devastated and I was laughing.  I hugged him - mud and all - he clung to me like a life preserver and then, "My (breath) shoes (breath) are (breath) gone."
I made him undress right there on the deck - nothing muddy was going into my house - and he asked to have some time alone.  When I went up to his room ten minutes later he was dressed, sitting on his bed crying over the terror he had survived.  Some more hugs - you're never too old for hugs, Zander - and he was calm enough to go back to the river with grandpa, who like some hero was able to find his shoes.

Healthy fear of the river instilled?  Check.
Shoes cleaned - though a little worse for wear?  Check.
Hugs to heal the most wounded survivor?  Check.  Check.

"Zander, if you can't see our house - we can't see you.  We need to be able to see you."
"Okay, mom."
"We love you.  We want you to be safe."
"Okay, mom."
"We love you."
"Love you, too."

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  1. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww that's all I have to say!!!

  2. I loved it, Alanna. My work boots have never been quite the same either. I did get most of the mud off them before packing for Romania.
    Give those kiids a hug for me.

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