Monday, January 5, 2009

Milk-Teeth Billygoat Monkeys

Captain will be 4 yrs old and Skelmo will be 3, both in March, and they are two milk-toothed billygoat monkeys, they climb everything they see and so far none of their brains has spilled out. They go hiking either with me or their mother at least twice a week but usually more and they go offtrail every single time to climb every boulder they see. They have style and fire from day one and a hundred people in their lives who love helping hone and feed their greatness.
Before Captain was 3 he could climb up the side of a car, either over the bumper or up the wheel well, then over the rearview mirror to the window, then up to the roof (I admired his class in avoiding the easy route straight up the windshield), and after a couple months of watching and building strength Skelmo could follow his big brother. Since then one of their favorite places to play is the mattress I threw onto the roof of my old Jeep, that's where they shoot sharks and Tyrannosaurus Rex. A couple weeks ago at the park, Captain clawed his way 15 ft. up a scraggly pepper tree and would've gone higher if I hadn't called him down.
I remember the first time Skelmo made it to the top of the 8 ft. climbing wall I built for him and his brother inside their bedroom. When I built it Captain was already a strong enough kid and climber to fly straight up and over it and onto the roof of my parent's house the first time I asked him to try it out. But Skelmo hadn't started out as possessed by climbing as his brother and it used to be if he couldn't get up something the first time he gave up. It took some wanting to do everything big brother does and some growing in his bones before Skelmo could be at the cusp of his next big thing. So one day we get him on the little wall inside his room and he's about halfway up when he stops and is about to climb down. Captain, his mom and me start chanting his name and he stops, something clicks in his head and he gussies up his heart, it was the first time I saw it in him. Like you see in a devoted athlete or fighter he trembled and shook to overcome the wall, he locked his eyes on the next handhold and he dug inside hisself and pulled the strength out of his tiny heart for the first time. He climbed until he touched the ceiling and then climbed back down trembling more and more after every hold, until he felt the carpet under his feet and let go, looking dazed and changed and he was amazed at himself. He blinked, raised his eyebrows, cocked his head, and smiled at what he'd just done. He had beaten his first impossible thing. He was old enough to realize he had beaten his first impossible thing.
Their mother and me take them to Joshua Tree where we play billygoat over the boulders and cliff rescue using Captains favorite pink unicorn as the climber we will save. Skelmo likes to find nooks and caves and just sit, or he'll drag me under some thorny bush and tell me to wait and listen, to what?, wait papa, then he looks at me and lifts his eyebrows and gives me big old wonderous eyes like saying hear that?, o what's that?, like he's copying the way adults like to play with children. So I sit there and try to see everything the way him and Captain are seeing it all from half as high.
Our hikes are magic to them but their mother and I are making sure it's also just a part of normal life for them. All three of my brothers have pointed out how lucky their two nephews are to grow up so much outside of the house (by city standards) and've wondered with me about what theyll do with this head start of theirs. So far Captain hates wearing shoes even over the worst ground and he says you cant kill anything that is a creature. Skelmo doesn't mind his shoes and he says he wants to go hunt a moose with me.