We were so excited for our first trip to Portland, Oregon. If you live in Las Vegas, you know that you have to escape the desert in the summertime, you have to beat the heat. All my husband wanted for his 38th Birthday was to go hiking someplace green.
I found us the BEST cabin.
Actually, this is not the best cabin I have ever discovered, but it is by far the best yard I have ever played in. Totally private. The ground is soft. Spongy. Walking is more like springing. My eyes were more than observing, they were drinking in the surroundings in a constant state of awe.
You have to cross this bridge over a beautiful creek to access the cabin. My son invented a thumbs up system where he had to cross the bridge alone first and, if he gave us the thumbs up, we were then allowed to cross one at a time, giving each other thumbs up.
Basically, this is a place for a magical woodland fairy experience. This is exactly the place I dream of whenever I meditate. Moss covered stones and trees, running water, natural landscaping, and fun surprises everywhere. Like a Goddess bath that my husband insisted I could not swim in because of all the pollywogs.
And this old fashioned bed frame under a chandelier in the middle of the woods that my husband insisted was not for me to lay on.
Within the first half hour of our arrival, my face began to hurt from smiling so hard. I had found a real paradise. I was pretty sure that I should live here forever and began to go over in my mind what I could remember from law school about adverse possession.
The three of us, my husband, my four year old and I, could not believe our eyes as we began to walk the path through the woods next to our cabin. We spoke only of what we thought was beautiful. Pointing out to each other whatever made our hearts soar. Trees, piles of mossy covered logs, giant clover patches. We spoke of adventures and exploring and discovery. Eventually this talk turned to “going off the path.”
What happened to our family on the other side of this giant fallen tree will never be fully understood. I wish we had stayed on the path. But there was this like giant tipi made out of sticks that I had to see up close, I wanted to go inside. So we carefully made our way over to it and talked about how this could be our new house, if only we could find some cloth to wrap around the outside of the sticks.
From inside the stick tipi I pointed out what appeared to be a new path we could get on and continue exploring. Again, we carefully climbed over the piles of fallen logs, noticing how fun and springy it was to jump on. Just as we made it to the path, my husband got all shhhhhhhhushy pointing out a brown figure in the distance in front of us. A deer? We will never know.
Because my son started screaming.
SOMETHING IS STICKING IN MY LEG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In the amount of time it has taken me to stare at my son in horror, my husband has already grabbed my son and began asking him to point to where it hurts on his leg. He points at his inner thigh and my husband pulls his pants down.
Chris is a good Dad.
I scrutinize my son’s leg looking for a stick protruding from it or an arrow because he is screaming in a way that has never happened before and I can feel fear releasing into my body.
Very calmly, I point out a tiny red mark on my son’s leg that could be the cause…maybe? I am very confused. My husband is acting fast. Taking my son’s shoes off and telling me that he felt something drop into the pants when he pulled them down.
FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m Sorry OW! I got bit. Oh no wonder, this really hurts!
My husband has never said the F word in front of our child before. He finishes taking my son’s pants off and then pulls up his own shirt to reveal a huge red welt on his side. My son is scream crying:
TAKE ME BACK TO THE CABIN!!!
My husband picks up our son and begins to run back toward the cabin but only makes it about 10 feet before my son begins screaming bloody murder. My husband very quickly puts my son down, rips off his hat, his long sleeve shirt, his short sleeve shirt and there, on my son’s side is a red welt just like his Dad’s.
My husband screams again. In one fluid movement he rips off his own long sleeve shirt, picks up our son and begins to run. I am totally horrified. I run behind them not even breathing. I don’t see any danger at all. I do not hear any danger at all. What is going on?!
As I am thinking this, I glance down at my left shoulder and see a hornet.
I have never taken off a sweatshirt so fast in my entire life.
Immediately, I understand that the movie I am in is called “My Girl” and Macauley Caulkin dies over this shit.
My husband is scooping up dirt from the ground and applying it to our son’s leg and stomach. My son is screaming:
THEY ARE CHASING US!!!! I WILL NEVER GO HIKING AGAIN!!!!
My husband assures our son that we are not being chased, that we left those bees back there in the woods and they will not come back. As I run up the 100 stone steps to our cabin to get ice, I rip off my T-shirt and take the suspenders off of my overalls, convinced that this is not over, I remark to myself that my husband hasn’t even rubbed the dirt on himself yet. He is really something.
In the freezer I find a bucket of ice. Later my husband laughs about this, like the cabin owner knew this might happen and keeps a bucket of ice handy for this exact purpose. I grab some towels and, half naked, I run them down 100 stone steps to my screaming naked son in the front yard.
Unfortunately, the soil doesn’t have enough clay to do its job of sucking out the stinger and does nothing to ease the pain. This is the worst pain of his life. I can tell by his facial expressions that he is traumatized because he cannot understand why he would be caused so much pain.
I am so upset that my son is experiencing pain that, in a voice that doesn’t even sound like me, I proclaim: I HATE THOSE BEES!
My son relaxes, as if he finally feels we understand the gravity of the situation. I hold the ice to my son’s leg and stomach and he wraps his body around mine, clinging to me, begging me to take him to the cabin, repeating that he will never go hiking again, over and over. He holds up his hand and I see, for the first time, his very swollen pinky. If only I had three arms.
I WANT TO GO TO BED, I WANT TO GO TO SLEEP!
Never have I ever heard these words come out of my son’s mouth. I can tell by his body language that he is shutting down from having to endure the pain of the three stings. I can’t stand the idea of putting his extremely muddy body into the bed so I had to convince him to take a cold bath, which he could only stand for however long it took me to get him clean-ish.
As an added bonus, while I was putting his pajamas on him, a bee buzzed around our heads in the cabin after I had already promised him there were no bees in the cabin, causing him to proclaim:
I AM GOING TO HAVE NIGHTMARES!!!!!
I hold my son, rock him, try to soothe him. My husband explains that we must have stepped on their house and that made them feel scared of us. My son insists that he is done with hiking and eventually he falls asleep.
In an effort to put some distance between this experience and the rest of our trip, we decided to get up and go in the morning. We went to breakfast and happened to find the perfect distraction. Mount Hood Adventure Park.
This place could not have been more perfect. Trampolines, pony rides, a huge tube slide, a big kids play area, rides, and, best of all, Jackson got to drive his first go kart.
Seriously, I could not be more grateful to this place for getting our family vacation back on track.
Luckily, my son had no problem stopping along the way for a hike because he saw that as different from hiking on the obviously deadly paths at our cabin. Hallelujah. We were so worried he would be too afraid to try again, but once more we found ourselves totally entranced by the beauty of the forest.
We saw parts of the Oregon trail!
We hiked every single day of our trip.
To places that had really cool bridges!
Jackson totally conquered the hike to Mirror Lake.
As a reward, we let him take his boots off to cool off his feet before the hike back down to the car.
Everywhere we hiked, I kept seeing hearts.
Plain as day. Hearts all along my path. I even pulled one out of the creek by our cabin and took it home with me. As I hiked along I thought about love and felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. I made a mistake. Even though I was thrilled that my son was hiking again, despite saying he would never hike again, I felt a sense of…guilt? Like I had done the wrong thing…
How you gonna teach your son what love is when you told him you hate those bees?
And then it hit me:
I forgive them.
I told my son:
What if…What would you do if a GIANT came up and crushed our house with his huge stinky foot? And there you were…just standing among all the crushed up pieces of your broken toys and busted up couch, bits and pieces of your whole house broken and crushed up all around you…do you think you might crawl up inside that Giant’s pants and bite his leg as hard as you could?
Oh yes! I would bite his butt!!
Hahahaha me too!! I would say: Hey! You can’t just go around crushing my home with your big stinky giant feet! And then I would bite his butt and crawl up further and bite his belly, too! Hey you know what?! I forgive those hornets.
Me too, Mama.
Yes because they were protecting their home.
You’re totally right, Jackson, and guess what else–I can see our hearts have gotten bigger since we decided to forgive.
PS–Hornets build their homes in the ground inside the fallen logs that are super fun to jump on.