“I have a plan.”
“What’s your plan?”
Justin always has a plan. Or wants to make a plan. Or wants to talk about making a plan to make a plan.
“Let’s go find mud.”
This is less of a plan and more of a declarative of mischief to which I cannot say no. We grab our respective bikes--my cute yellow step-though named, Lemon and his stealthy cyclocross bike named Silver Bullet--and head out to the nearest flooded park. The more water, the more mud. Slipping and sliding, up and down trails, exploring and giggling the whole way. We talk and think of nothing else other than what is right under our wheels or about to be sloshing under our tread. We are focused and sharp, doing our best not to completely wipe out so that we come home only moderately muddy.
In these moments you wouldn’t know there was a 30 year age difference between me and my nephew. We are simply kids playing. I have learned so much from Justin since he moved in with us last year. On the inside, he struggles with the loss of his mother coupled with a shitload of learning challenges. There’s a push and pull of sadness and curiosity about the broader world, but a limited range of experience and language to put his arms around it all--to make sense of what he has experienced and what is possible in the future.
The outside saves us. We have rediscovered the outdoors together. His mind clicks into place with each pedal stroke forward. His hyperactivity is decimated by each puddle crushed under our tires. We are figuring out what it means to feel safe and loved...and to think clearly.
And me? In our age of endless memes and pre-defined parameters of what we should be, I am finding solace in the muddy trails and the genuine glee of my 43-year old giggles. I am not competing nor am I trying to prove anything. I am simply living in the moment in a way that just feels right.