“Be home before dark”, my mother would say before Kacy and I scurried out the gate, past the garden and the barn, into the field and under the back fence that led to the Skunk Tree.
The sun would be high in the sky, the temperatures in the nineties, the warm breeze doing nothing but blowing around the dust and dry grasses that had been recently mowed. We weren't really supposed to go to the Skunk Tree, but we did so anyway. No one would know about it - there were forts to be built and branches to be climbed and rotten-trunk caves to be explored.
Once our chores were complete, we were free. Free to run and explore and scramble and fall and scrape our knees. The only protection my mother required was sunscreen. The only prerequisite to this unparalleled freedom; taking care of one another.
Kacy is two years younger than I – and anything I did, she had to do better. Climb higher, jump further, be braver. She was my fiercest competitor and bestest friend. As we got older, the competitor portion of our relationship took hold and we were forced to navigate some rough waters. Together we made it thought and as adults, Kacy is my best friend.
As we age, relationships change; not only with siblings, but with time, and freedom, and fun. We don’t scamper into the woods for hours, and play nonsense games, and forget what time it is – or do we?
On Friday night, after work – I did. I jumped on my bike and pedaled into the woods. I had no agenda, no workout or route in mind. I rode alone, listening to the sounds of the trees, the needles beneath my tyres, the wind as it rushed by my ears. I just pedaled.
The sun cast long shadows and I knew I would be racing the rising moon; but I climbed higher anyway. My legs turned over easily, fueled by the fresh air of the spring evening. I felt like a kid; filled with the anticipation of exploring the Skunk Tree.
At the high point, I quit pedaling. I stood there, looking out over the trees, at the mountains east of town, at the clouds that drifted slowly across the sky, at the sun, just setting behind the ridge.
I heard a whisper on the wind, “Be home before dark.”
And I pedaled as a fast as my legs would allow. My vest open, flapping in the wind, I caught a glimpse of my shadow – I was wearing a cape. I could fly.
Just as twilight settled in, I turned down the alley way. This kid made it home before dark.