May 21, 2010- Of Hills, Tamales, and Imagination

Kate Murr

After rains cleared, we headed out and it started raining. It was refreshing, though, and we needed the motion.

Stuart really exercised his navigational skills as we crossed into Tennessee. Few roads on the route were marked, and they were all rural and uphill. Pushing our bikes up one particularly evil slope, we recorded a 6.1% grade using Stuart’s i-phone. Of course the hills provided plenty of exercise for the kids. We parked at the bottom of one hill and hiked up to an old cemetery. I’ve always liked the quiet feeling and weighty language of cemeteries. Jane fluttered around sounding out names on headstones and I imagined macabre Kindergarten papers peppered with question marks and notes of concern.

A few hills later when we paused to eat some oxygen I threw a graham cracker at Stuart, but missed.

When we pulled up to Shirley’s trailer to inquire about a nearby restaurant and campground we were completely calorie deficient and grouchy. The assembly at Shirley’s said the restaurant was closed, and they didn’t know about the campground, but would we like some BBQ chicken, dried black-eyed peas, and maybe some Coke or Meller Yeller. Jane made fast friends with Shirley’s granddaughter, Allie, who is four, and we thankfully accepted the invitation of our gracious hosts. The family had already eaten, but we all sat on the porch enjoying the evening together and before we left Shirley shared with me her recipe for hot tamales. Eyes a-twinkle, she also filled our cooler with frozen tamales for the road.

We biked another mile to the Shilo battlefield campground, which was a couple of mowed fields surrounded by majestic and mysterious trees and separated by a wet ditch that the children referred to as “the marsh”. Stuart set up camp and my history lesson for the kids morphed into a tour of two imaginary worlds they created on the spot. Jane’s story of Pixi Land, told entirely whilst she was gracefully “flying” with her arms, was pure summertime imagination candy.

Jane was adamant that there were no boys in Pixi land: brothers, silly boys like Matthew, and future husbands like Owen had their own world and could only visit Pixi land by request and upon the stipulation that they first had to go to the market and order wings; also, they couldn’t bring their swords. Despite Jane’s royal decree, the magic spell of our private worlds was broken with the twilight arrival of three (3) troops of boy scouts. We fell asleep as voices cracked and hammers clanged and boys rushed about on the margins of a field made magical by childhood.

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