My oldest child has been counting down to this week with only slightly less anticipation than our annual beach trip. That’s because my younger two children will be at bible school every morning for 3 hours, and he will be enjoying, in his own words, “alone time” with me. When I think of alone time, I picture more of me, all by myself, or better yet, alone with my husband, John, just as it was before we had all these amazingly entertaining children.
As a seven year old, going on forty, my son chose Starbuck’s as his first stop on our list of fun “alone time” activities, and casually ordered a slice of pumpkin bread with ice water as if this were an everyday routine. Next, John (who was lucky enough to join us today) suggested we take a walk at UK’s Arboretum. All three of us appreciated the gardens, artistic fountains, and beauty of such a terrific Lexington landmark, and I have to admit I was enjoying the quiet discussions that time alone with my serious child afforded.
Eventually we found ourselves standing on the path that leads into the Arboretum’s wooded area, and that is when the real magic began. Exactly 17 years ago I followed John down that exact same path in a much younger, less developed, and certainly less known Arboretum. It was one of the first times we had been out together, and each of us was excited to discover that we had yet another thing in common–adventuring through the woods. The trail was not as well marked then, and we had to push our way through the vines and tangle of brush. Somewhere along the way we discovered a hanging vine, which we could wrap our arms around and use to swing rather far through the air, like Tarzan and Jane. We spent what seemed like hours (but was probably less) playing on that vine, both relieved that the other was having fun at the child-like game. When we finally left, tired and hungry, dirt under our finger nails and smudged on our faces, I think we both knew we had shared something rare and special.
The rest of the summer we returned to the woods in the Arboretum, looking for our swinging vine, but we never found it again. When John went away to college in the Fall, I sent him drawings and paintings in the mail, the very best of which was a re-creation of the two of us with our swinging vine. For years after that, we would go to the Arboretum periodically. Sometimes John would take photographs, and sometimes we’d take a picnic, but mostly we just liked to walk and talk. Over the years, we watched the trees grow from tiny seedlings to far above our heads, and saw the addition of a nature center and the extension of the walking paths. But we did not go in the woods anymore…until today.
Today my son ran ahead on the wooded path, amazed at the dark beauty of the place, and bubbling with excitement to have our undivided attention. I glanced back on the path and caught John by the hand and we exchanged a smile. It is still a beautiful place, probably more lovely because of the countless hours volunteers have spent making it so, and to John and I it is still a special place. One that reminds us of a time when we had our whole lives in front of us, countless hours of alone time together. But today, we were more than happy to share that time , and I can’t wait to see what the rest of my week of Alone Time with my precious first born will hold.