Day Hike

Walking through a realization

By Kara Richardson Whitely, author of Gorge

About two years ago, I said, “We should go hiking someday” to my friend Marybeth.

In our busy lives, we would pass each other around town, always happy to see each other, but never able to really connect and catch up.  We tried to schedule a date but somehow, we could never make it happen.

I would see her at the gym in one class as I was heading to another. Finally, during National Night Out, when it felt like everyone in my hometown was out with their kids to see a massive display of law enforcement and bouncy houses, we ran into each other again.

My 4-year-old daughter was tugging at my hand, trying to see the Coast Guard boat, so I quickly said, “Do you remember that hike we’ve been meaning to take? Let’s just do it before life gets too hectic again.”

So we set a date.  And of course, that day stormed with thunder and lightning. 

Undeterred, we rescheduled to a slot that fit both of our calendars two days later.

We decided upon a hike in South Mountain Reservation, in the next town, and a route that seemed pretty straightforward.

The truth was I needed to talk. I was feeling miserable after a root canal that didn’t seem to improve. My au pair had just quit and my oldest daughter who adored her was going to be heartbroken.  

I met Marybeth when she was the director of Anna’s preschool. She was always my rock when it came to things I was wrestling with on the parenting front. She moved on to start her preschool in another town. I missed her daily presence in my life and her friendship.

The thing about hiking is it gives you a long stretch of time to walk and talk. You can come back to the same conversation again and again over different terrain and have a completely different perspective.

I kept worrying about what Anna’s reaction would be to the news that someone she cared about was leaving. I was especially worried for her because I was 9 years old when my dad left and I turned to food to cope. It was the beginning of my tumultuous relationship with eating.

As we turned the corner in the trail, sweaty from walking for more than a mile, Marybeth had new perspective.

“There was no one for you when you were going through those things. You had food. Anna has you,” she said.

I felt like bursting into tears. She was right. Anna wasn’t going to have to deal with this on her own. I was going to be there for her, no matter how she reacted.

Follow Kara on Connect @gorgegirl15

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