December 02, 2012
“Maybe you can help him look at this,” Biker Boy’s foster mother said, handing me a photo album. “It’s making him anxious.”
Biker Boy, who had gone running off to find his sneakers, stopped in his tracks. He didn’t say anything, just turned and looked at me. I knew right away what the book was, and I tucked it into my bag.
“We’ll take a look,” I promised her. Then I looked up at Biker Boy. “But first, let’s go run around outside somewhere. Get your coat.”
I got to Biker Boy’s foster home early this morning, in hopes that we could go hiking before the rain started. Temperatures were still above freezing, and most of last week’s snow had melted, leaving pockets of white in the woods. I’d looked up some new hiking trails on the computer before I’d left home, but Biker Boy said, “We need to go to the waterfall again. It’s a tradition.”
He is a boy who loves traditions. We stopped to buy snacks (another tradition) and then I took a detour to look at one of the kettle lakes. It was a pretty lake, small enough for just canoes or rowboats. We passed several hand-painted signs advertising Christmas tree farms, and then we passed hillsides filled with Christmas trees, rows and rows of them spreading in all directions. We crossed the railroad track several times, with Biker Boy looking anxiously each way for trains before we drove over it.
When we got to the trailhead for the waterfall hike, we were the only car. “We have the whole place to ourselves,” I told Biker Boy. We both paused to listen to the stream rushing down over rocks.
“IT’S ALL OURS!” he yelled. He ran ahead on the trail, eager to lead the way. When we reached the waterfall, we could see chunks of ice that had melted and fallen into piles at the base of each little ledge. The rocks were slippery this week, and we both kept sliding back as we scrambled up and over them.
I handed Biker Boy my mittens so he could pick up the chunks of ice. “Go ahead and throw them,” I said. “It’s just ice and rock. You can’t hurt anything.”
He grinned and began throwing the chunks of ice. They smashed against the rock with a satisfying sound that echoed throughout the valley. After a few minutes, I took a second pair of gloves out of my camera bag and joined him: the thinner pieces of ice were the most fun because they crackled as they crashed.
The rain began while we were still climbing around the waterfall. The rocks and dead leaves were slippery, and we were soon covered with mud from sliding down on our butts. We’d hoped to find a trail to get to the top of the falls, but I think we went the wrong way. I probably should have looked at the trail map a little closer.
“I don’t know if hunting is allowed in these woods,” I said to Biker Boy as we started back to the car, “but we’re off the trail so we better sing just in case.” So we sang Christmas carols in the rain as we trudged back to the trailhead. I think any hunter could have heard us coming from miles away.
By then it was lunchtime. Pizza is another tradition, and it’s an easy one to keep. Every little town in this part of the country has a pizza place. We found a pizza parlor with a friendly owner, an electric fireplace, and vinyl booths that could accommodate two hikers whose clothes were wet. Once we were done eating, I pulled from the album from my bag -- a book put together by a couple could potentially adopt him. “Want to look at this now?” I asked. He nodded.
We looked at the photos of the people, their pets, and their house. We read the carefully typed words that revealed so much longing, and Biker Boy pointed out the details that he liked the best. Adoption is a slow process, and this is just the very beginning. Biker Boy and the team of people working with him know that there are many hurdles to overcome before he ends up in a family.
“Where’s their town? How far away from you?” asked Biker Boy.
“It’s about 40 minutes from my house,” I said. “Don’t worry, I could visit you there. It’s near a big lake – there are lots of beautiful places on the shore of that lake.”
“What if I go live far away?” he asked. “What if I go live in Miami?”
“I will take an airplane to visit you,” I said. “And we’ll go look at alligators.”
The pizza ovens made the little diner warm, the rain made a splattering sound on the windows, and we both felt sleepy. We split another piece of pizza, just because it tasted so good, and we put the album away. There was, really, no way to predict the future.
“Just keep an open mind,” I said to him. “There are good people in the world.”
“I know,” he said. “You and I – we’re good people.”
“That’s right,” I told him. “We are.”
Posted by jo(e)