I’ve previously written about my experiences of riding behind my dad on the ATV. I haven’t ridden behind my mom as much, but I recently sat back and enjoyed a leisurely ride. We rode the usual paths to look at the sunflower field at the end of its prime, the pumpkin field just coming into its prime, and the freshly-cleared trails. The air had an almost-fall crispness.
Memories flooded my mind and heart as we slowly meandered. We were on the hills that had been covered with trees when I was young. The family worked hard to pick up the debris from the bulldozing process, so the land could be tilled without damaging equipment. My daughters and I had sledded on those same hills, and many extended family gatherings involved piling onto a trailer behind the ATV as we ventured on scavenger hunts. I’d walked those hills many times, sometimes to enjoy the beauty, other times to fit in a workout, yet others to cry and grieve in my comfortable place of solitude. I’d fed cattle along that trail, always thrilled when they would see us coming and run to greet us because they were ready to eat. I’d checked and helped repair fences. I’d walked with my pets through the years. I’d taken dad’s dog for slow runs near the end of his life.
But my ride wasn’t just about the past. Those trails are packed with meaning and memories for me, and as I sat behind mom on the ATV, I added yet another memory. I’d been there before, but each time adds meaning. Each time adds significance. Each time adds appreciation of where I’ve been and anticipation for where I get to go.
Similar experiences don’t always create ruts for us. Sometimes it breeds a familiarity that invites widened experiences. We notice details we didn’t see before. We appreciate changes through seasons and life stages. We don’t need things to be the same every time, because we value moving on. Moving on doesn’t always include leaving something behind; it often builds on what has been. We can focus on the gaps and the “wish there had been more.” We can focus on the regrets, the “wish that hadn’t happened,” like knowing my ex had also walked some of that same trail during a family holiday gathering while on the phone with his girlfriend weeks before announcing he was leaving our marriage. But while someone else’s choices affect us, they don’t determine the context of what we move forward with. We get to assign significance. We get to keep experiences and memories in context.
I love the trails of my childhood that have deepened into the trails of my adulthood. Trails that haven’t all been fun but have been filled with rich memories of people I love. I can’t live on those trails, but they are part of my life’s road map, and I am thankful for them. As I rode behind my mom, I leaned back and looked into the sky. I took a deep breath to soak in the moment. Such a pure moment to enjoy a sweet slice of life.