I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
January 10, 2011
“Is everyone ready for our Winter Walk?”
At the naturalist’s call, my husband, children and I gathered along with five or six other young families inside our local park’s nature center for a guided walk through the woods. The temperature hovered at around the freezing mark, but the kids were dressed warmly, the sun was shining, and I was excited to get everyone out of the house for a hike.
Before we got started, the naturalist handed out a map to each family with pictures of six items to look for along the trail, like a cedar tree, mistletoe, and a squirrel– simple stuff. The naturalist told the kids she’d stamp their map each time they spotted something, and if they managed to find all of the items, we’d earn cookies and hot chocolate at the nature center once we returned.
We set off along the trail in a groups of two and three. Moms and dads gamely dragged along bundled-up preschoolers, and bits and pieces of muffled conversation could be heard as we all tromped over the fallen leaves.
“Look, Bella, aren’t those ferns pretty?”
“Hey Carl, see where the bark’s gone from this tree? That’s where a buck has been rubbing his horns against it!”
“Is that mistletoe up there, or a squirrel’s nest?”
“ISN’T THE WEATHER SHARP AND COLD, STEVIE? IT MAKES MY FINGERTIPS NUMB. DO YOU KNOW WHAT NUMB MEANS, STEVIE? IT MEANS I CAN’T FEEL MY FINGERS. HOW MANY FINGERS DO YOU HAVE, STEVIE? LET’S COUNT OUR FINGERS. LET’S BOTH COUNT OUR FINGERS RIGHT NOW.”
I turned, briefly wondering if the mom behind me was carrying a megaphone. Nope. No megaphone. Just-
“OOH, STEVIE IS THAT A SYCAMORE TREE UP AHEAD? WHAT IS THE LATIN NAME FOR SYCAMORE TREE, STEVIE? DO YOU REMEMBER? I’M SURE YOU DO. WE CAN DRILL AGAIN LATER IF YOU’VE FORGOTTEN. SPEAKING OF ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT I’M ABOUT TO SAY, WHY DON’T YOU RECITE YOUR CHINESE ALPHABET RIGHT NOW, STEVIE? GO ON. RECITE IT.”
A few years ago, I would have turned around and shot her a dirty look at that point, because. Hello! Forest! Shut up!
But in an effort to be a kinder, gentler human being, I tried to indulge her, erm, attention-getting style. She was just excited, bless her heart.Bruiser seemed quite happy trotting along beside me, so I decided to simply take my focus off the air horn behind me and focus it instead on Nature. Beautiful, wondrous Nature. Stark, serene Natu-
“NO, STEVIE, WE CAN’T MAKE THEM GO ANY FASTER. THAT BOY IS SMALLER THAN YOU AND CAN’T WALK AS QUICKLY.”
There was a short pause as Stevie, who had a rather quiet voice, said something I didn’t catch, and then-
“STEVIE, IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU THINK THEY SHOULD LET US PASS. IT DOESN’T EVEN MATTER IF I AGREE WITH YOU, AND IN THIS CASE, I HAPPEN TO BE OF THE OPINION THAT YOU’RE RIGHT. EVEN THOUGH YOU AND I BOTH KNOW THAT SLOWER PEOPLE SHOULD STEP ASIDE AND MAKE WAY FOR THE FASTER ONES, MAYBE OTHER PEOPLE JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT. BUT YOU SHOULDN’T TALK ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE WHEN THEY MIGHT HEAR YOU. YOU SHOULD KEEP YOUR OPINIONS TO YOURSELF.”
Waaaait a second.
Did she really—?
Was she talking about…?
Oh hell no.
I turned around again. “Perhaps you should view our slowness as a chance for you and Stevie to review the Periodic Chart,” I said to her, smiling.
Okay. I wanted to say that. I really did. But! As I said, I am now a Better Person, and Better People don’t make snide comments in response to passive aggressive ones!
They just might walk a little slower, though.
Even then, I opted to continue ignoring her. For one thing, this was a walk for 2-6 year-olds, not a sprint to the finish line, and the fact that someone had apparently skipped her Klonopin that morning had nothing to do with me. For another, this was my family’s Winter Hike, dammit, and I wasn’t going to let someone’s observations, ear piercing as they were, ruin it.
It took a few minutes, but I eventually managed to convince myself that the woman’s grating voice was nothing more than a wounded wildebeest braying in rage and confusion somewhere just off the trail. And wildebeests are a part of Nature, right? So It Was All Good.
At least until we got to the bird blind.
The bird blind is one of my family’s favorite parts of the park. It’s… well, it looks like this.
At any rate, this was our absolute last chance to earn hot chocolate and cookies, and the kids were in a dither to spot some woodland creatures before the walk ended. All of us quietly crept up to the blind and peered out at the bird feeders.
Not all of us.
“COME ON, STEVIE, CLIMB UP ON THIS BENCH SO THAT YOU CAN SEE THE BIRDS. I WOULD LIKE FOR YOU TO NAME FOR ME EACH BIRD THAT YOU SEE. AFTERWARD, WE CAN GO TO THE LIBRARY AND FIND BOOKS ABOUT EACH BIRD. WE WILL READ THOSE BOOKS TO ONE ANOTHER, STEVIE, AND THEN WE CAN MAKE A DIORAMA OF WHAT WE’VE SEEN HERE.”
Not surprisingly, the perches remained empty. Punky looked over at the wildebeest and then shot me a worried look.
At that point, I’d had just about enough.
“BE VERY, VERY QUIET, BRUISER,” I said brightly to my son, who was standing silently beside Stevie and looking through the slats. “IF YOU TALK TOO LOUD, NO CARDINALS OR SQUIRRELS WILL COME OUT. AND THEN ALL THE CHILDREN WILL CRY AND THEIR PARENTS WILL BLAME YOU FOR KEEPING THEM FROM HAVING THEIR HOT CHOCOLATE AND COOKIES AND THAT WOULD BE AWFUL. JUST AWFUL.”
Bruiser ignored me, but I heard a short gasp come Stevie’s mom. I looked at her and smiled warmly and she glared back at me, lifting her chin a little in defiance.
I’m not exactly proud of myself. I can’t shake the feeling that a Better Person would have found a way to handle the situation differently. Perhaps a Better Person would have gently tapped the woman on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, I do hate to inconvenience you, but would you mind terribly shutting your piehole?”
I will say that it was only a few moments before the squirrels and cardinals came out from their hiding places. The day was saved. The hot chocolate was drunk. The cookies were eaten.
Long live Nature.