Letting Them Be
August 12, 2013 § 13 Comments
The boys are building a shelter down in the woods, inspired by a recent trip to help raise a barn. The fellows raising the barn – two mid-20’s college buddies who soured on corporate life and went in on a 30-acre parcel half a stone’s throw from the Canadian border – are living for the summer in a netted tent they constructed of small trees and a few sheets of metal roofing. The tent is situated on a small jut of land by the banks of a stream, and it’s impossible not to imagine how it might be to fall asleep there, with the water rushing by and the breeze stealing through the net. I could see my sons’ imaginations kick into overdrive the moment they saw the structure; I could tell simply from how their faces were arranged that they’d decided to build one for themselves. This decision had been reached in approximately four-and-a-half seconds. Not a word had been spoken.
The very next morning before our rooster, Blood, had halted his crowing for the day, before the sun was yet full in the sky, before Penny and I had finished morning chores, the boys were down in the woods, scouting locations. They’d brought a shovel, a handsaw, and numerous sections of baling twine, with which they’d lash the framing posts together.
We called them for breakfast, and they arrived with dirt and bark clinging to their bare skin. They ate hurriedly, in a slurping fashion, and then retreated back to woods.
Three hours later, Rye slipped into the house, left hand tucked into right armpit. “What’s going on?” I asked, although I knew perfectly well by the way he carried himself and by how quiet he was: He’d hurt himself. “Cut myself,” he said softly, pawing through the first aid drawer with his uninjured fingers. He extracted a bandaid and the bottle of tree tea oil, and commenced to doctoring his wounded digit. I continued washing dishes and tried not to watch out of the corner of my eye.
Two hours after that, Fin tromped through the kitchen and bee lined for the first aid drawer. He’d smashed a thumb with his hammer, and blood was oozing out from beneath his thumbnail. He pawed through the first aid draw with his uninjured fingers, extracted a bandaid and the bottle of tea tree oil and commenced to doctoring his wounded digit. I continued preparing lunch and tried not to watch out of the corner of my eye.
By dinner, with no further bloodshed, the boys had erected a sturdy frame. At each juncture of wood, twine had been wrapped and tied. The roof was peaked, and a sturdy ridgepole supported rafters of small red maple and fir poles. They’d dug a pit off to one side and lined it with rocks to contain their cooking fires. During all of this, they’d asked for and received no help from Penny or myself, although clearly one of us would need to cut the metal roofing for them. But otherwise, this project was theirs. The mistakes were theirs. The arguments over how to space the roof strapping were theirs. The small triumph of seeing it assembled was theirs. Even the associated injuries and treatment of them were theirs.
I think I might finally be learning to let go. To let them saw and hammer. To let them negotiate and argue and yell. To let them screw up and start over and screw up again. To let them bleed and to stop their bleeding.
To let them be.