Jared’s parents came to visit us from Oregon on Thursday night, and we left on Friday to come stay at the cabin for the weekend. We’ve been grilling (yay for our two new books!), eating really, really good southern barbeque, and today we all went for a hike to Linville Falls. The one main trail goes in about .4 miles , and then the second and third trails go beyond that one, with the furthest about another half-mile in. Each ends at an overlook, so we took the first one, heading over to the Upper Falls Overlook. The falls here are small, disappearing around a huge s-curving gorge eroded in hundreds of layers through the centuries. Back out and onto the main trail, and we decided to try for the second overlook, to see the larger lower falls. It was another maybe 1/3 of a mile back, quite uneven, with a steep wooden staircase down to the overlook itself - I snapped a few pics and then followed Elliott back up the hill to where the main trail had branched off down to the overlook.

Ele and I assumed that the rest (Grandma, Grandpa, Jared and Rowen) would be following us, so we headed up the third trail (trusting the sign that said it was 800 feet further ahead). The sign was a dirty liar, and the final overlook was a good third of a mile out. Ele was flagging by the time we got up there, took a few more pictures, and didn’t see the rest of the family following. So we went back on down the trail, and right at the turn-off to the second trail (probably .8 miles out), Ele sat down on a rock like a deflating balloon. His tired little legs just wouldn’t carry him any further.

Still seeing no sign of the family - I figured they had gone back to the car - I hoisted Ele on my back and headed down the trail. He weighs probably 30 pounds, so it was fairly easy going on the downslopes, but definitely got harder as we began the climb back up to where the parking lot was.As I walked, Ele started humming against my back, and I put my arms back, and underneath him to help hold him up. As I walked, I thought about what a privilege it was to have this strength. I thought about mamas - strong mamas all over the world who do far more than walk 3/4 of a mile with a kid on their back - without ever considering that they wouldn’t or couldn’t make it. I thought of magnificent mamas, and their emotional and mental toil over weeks and years in the service of their beloveds. This is simply what must be done, and so it will be done. Mamas, I admire you!

The last 500 feet or so was a really steep upslope, and I will not lie - I was puffing pretty hard by the end of that. But I thought with gratitude of my back grown strong in my years as a mother, and my months working my garden. I prayed a prayer of thanks for my legs, strong enough to carry me AND my small son when his legs would no longer support him. Motherhood seems to me to have been, in addition to so many other things, a school of patience and strength, and I’m grateful for that.