Our fall, back-to-school resolution is to get back out into the woods for some family hikes. We are so fortunate to live in an area with an absolute abundance of trails, Ken and I both really need the exercise, and it's a time for the three of us to be together without anything to distract any of us. Along with broad trails like this one, there are paths that lead up and down through the woods as well, although all the recent rains have made those temporarily impassable.
Every time I see a picture of Dean next to Ken, or next to me, my heart skips a little at how tall he's become. Won't be long before he passes Ken, I think. Beginning 8th grade this year has brought it's own raft of changes for Dean and I keep finding myself holding my breath, wanting to slow things down, trying not to worry about what comes next. It's huge -- in the US, you start high school next, after you've been graduated from 8th grade; the final step before going off to college. Sure that's 4 years away but still, it is momentous. It feels as though that spot in time where suddenly you can see the doorway through which your child passes from his life with you, under your wing, to his own life, out in the world, is right there -- in front of you and in focus in a way it has never been before.
And 8th graders as a whole are an edgy bunch. They feel it, too; the dwindling years of childhood and the massive gap to be leapt into the *real world* of high school and beyond. We laughed when we got back to the car after our hike that we'd never been able to make the loop in an hour before, and it's all about not having to pick Dean up and carry him along the way, about his legs being just as long as ours and able to keep up (actually, I was the one who had the hardest time keeping up).
Dean will take off early next week on his next class hiking trip up into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I know I don't need to worry as much as I did the very first time he headed off, and maybe I can pry myself away from the weather reports while he's away. Maybe I can think about where I'd like to be headed, and what's past that big leap for me. I just haven't been having much luck getting my brain to go there.