I have some sage advice. (Not to be confused with advice about sage. Though if you’re asking, I think it’s fine in a meatloaf but I don’t recommend hiking on mountains of it. I could always tell when my brothers had gone exploring on the hill near my home because it was covered in sagebrush; they would come home smelling of stale salad and raw boy.) It is this: try to make friends with people who own cabins in the mountains and remain on their good side. A few years ago I made a new friend who went out on a limb and invited me for a weekend retreat at her sprawling home along a river in the Rocky Mountains. Apparently I was good enough company to invite back and I have basked in her hospitality a few more times since. I have relished it. We kayak, hike, eat fruit and cheese along the wrap around deck and talk nonstop. But there’s a different cadence to the kind of talking with this group. It’s not frivolous, indulgent or skittish banter among women who behave differently when they are away from responsibility. The conversation is almost always significant. There’s a lesson to be learned , information to be gathered or thoughts to be shared. It’s a unique setting and each time I go I come back feeling healed by nature, calmed by a king-sized bed with fresh, crisp sheets and invigorated with ideas that cause me to think on weightier matters. Since we haven’t been friends forever, there’s a lot to explore.
As we loaded up the Suburban to begin our return trip we snaked through the switchbacks along the mountain and talked some more. Families, faith, experiences, wise cracks by yours truly, and then a question; “Kristy, what are your parents like?” (Read: I wonder what kind of humans could produce a species such as yourself?) At that moment I felt my insides burst with pride, gratitude and love and I couldn’t (didn’t want to) shut up. I talked about a mom who is strong, smart, savvy, and did my taxes right up until the moment I married an accountant. “She’s not fluffy – she would rather sit in a corner with a copy of the Drudge Report and talk politics than make a quilt any day. She makes cookies with raisins and wheat that keep you regular but taste good and she taught me how to Venmo at age 82.” I even mentioned the propensity my parents have to take in “strays” – people who need respite from a difficult situation or who simply need a soft place to fall for a while – and the very next day I got an email from my mom explaining that the grandson of a family friend would be living with them for a couple of months while he completed an internship. Then there’s my Dad. My Dad! If you strike up a conversation with my Dad at a wedding reception he will probably write you a letter the next day to address any concerns you shared about your life because did I mention you will share concerns about your life? You won’t even know you’re doing it until it’s too late but good for you because he will tell you how to fix it, and he will probably pray for you at the foot of his bed that night while holding hands with my mother. You may not realize it at the time, but when you engage in a conversation with my father you’re not just passing the time with idle chit chat you’re gaining an ally.
When I look back on my childhood I miss the gentle hum of its rhythm. It wasn’t perfect - it never is - but my memories are garnished with a soft focus lens and a reverent regard. It’s not just a gift but a responsibility, and I share it not to brag but to be grateful. I don’t want to forget the feeling I had as our car hugged the curves of that two lane highway coming home. I was still pondering my kayak trip on the tranquil, glassy lake littered with osprey that morning when the question registered, “Kristy, what are your parents like?” Luckily it was a long drive home.