My girls? They are all prepared to live in the wilderness.
They figure they will be able to find a cave somewhere, because in adventure stories? There is always a cave. That or an abandoned boxcar . . . either way, they figure shelter is easy to find.
They will drink rain water.
And they will eat pine needles.
Apparently, Maj learned at her camp at few weeks ago that pine needles are a delicious and nutritious wilderness snack. So she and Kallan have been nibbling on the pine trees wherever we go.
All I know?
Is that their breath has never been fresher.
This is a good thing, because if there is to be a lot of screaming in my face? I would like it to be fresh and piney-scented.
We took the girls out bike-riding yesterday. The girls rode their bikes. Mark and I walked.
By the way, if you even for a second imagined Mark and me all helmeted and dressed in tight-fitting biking clothes to join our girls on this adventure? Then you have not been paying attention. Because . . . not even.
Anyway, Mark and I are walking and the girls have disappeared ahead of us on their bicycles. For a few lovely moments there is silence. I hold Mark’s hand, and realize as I do that we don’t get to hold hands that often. There is always a girl in between.
And then there is the far-off sound of screaming. The screaming approaches us. Because it belongs to us. Duh.
And then there is a girl between us.
Screaming. All piney fresh.
It is Maj, and she is furious and outraged and covered in dirt and sticks.
“Kallan hurled me into the bushes! I could have been killed! She crashed into me and then she just hurled me into the bushes and the prickers!”
I have this mental image of Kallan all Incredible Hulkish, lifting Maj above her head and tossing her into the brambles. And I fight back giggles.
“She hurled you?”
“Yes, Mother! She hurled me! I am probably covered in poison ivy and poison oak and you don’t even care! She is horrible! Punish her!”
That is another thing that Maj learned at camp . . . the world is covered with poison ivy and poison oak that look just like regular ivy and regular oak. Maj has to be on constant guard against evil plant life disguised as friendly flora.
I stoop to brush off the worst of the dirt and plant-life that is clinging to Maj, and Mark asks, “So you just left your bicycle back there on the path? Why didn’t you pick it up and ride back to tell on your sister?”
Maj turns to him and speaks slowly, as though he is perhaps a small and stupid child, “I LEFT MY BIKE BECAUSE KALLAN HURLED ME INTO THE POISON IVY. I COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED. WHY ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THE BIKE?”
We walk together to where the tragedy occurred. Kallan does not ride back to meet us, and is in fact riding in lazy innocent circles when we arrive. She waves at us as she makes another loop, “Hi! Just so you know? Maj fell.”
Maj’s bike is lying in the thick weeds and blackberries that line the path. Both of its wheels’ spokes are choked with vegetation, suggesting a fair amount of speed when she left the road. The whole area around the bike is trampled down, and if I was able to read the emotion of the scene? I would say there is much rage here.
Maj gestures angrily, “Do you see? She could have killed me! I am probably covered in poison. She tried to poison me!”
“Maj, there is no poison here. You fell and you are dirty, but you are not poisoned.”
“She could have poisoned me. I could have fallen into a pit of poison ivy and been killed!”
“Yes, she could have thrown you into a pit of metal spikes, too. But she did not. You are going to live, unpoisoned.”
Mark helps Maj clear the bike’s wheels of green, and I head over to talk to Kallan, who is still making lazy innocent loops with her bicycle.
She stops in front of me, as adorable as she can be, “Yes?”
“You want to tell me what happened here?”
“It’s a small path, Mom. It’s skinny.”
“There’s not much room for passing.”
“Uh huh . . .”
“So I was trying to pass her, but her bike is bigger and it goes faster, so I was trying to race past her.”
“So far so good.”
“And then she was calling me a baby. She called me a baby on a baby bike.”
“And so I passed her and then she fell.”
“Seems like maybe you skipped something there.”
“Maybe I called her shortie.”
“Maybe I called her midget on a clown bike.”
Kallan looks at me, “OK, I pushed her over. But she was all slowed down to name-call at that moment, so she only crashed a little. But then she got all dramatic and crazy and stomped around dragging her bicycle in the weeds screaming about poison.”
“OK, so apologize, and then you will be walking your bike for a while.”
“Oh, man! Seriously?”
And then Maj rides ahead, all pride-injured and stiff.
And Kallan walks with us. In between.
There is always a girl in between.
So Kallan’s punishment is short-lived. We send her on her way, and ahead of us? We can hear Maj’s screams of incredulity that her sister is riding again so soon after trying to poison her.
We walk and hold hands.
It is lovely.
And our breath? Piney fresh.
You know you do.