Some people find freedom by traveling all across the world, from one continent to another continent, and one ocean to another ocean.
Yet, for me, all it takes is a three hour drive down from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Lynchburg, Virginia to find freedom.
I discovered Riverside Park on the Mount Vernon Trail with my girlfriend, Olive. I’ve been there twice with her and her younger five-year old brother, Pootie. Both times we made our way through green lush trails and to the glistening Potamac waters. Of course, both times we faced the one challenge that any adults encounter when taking a five-year old on a trip with them: supervision.
Pootie, stop, your shoe is untied. Pootie, stay on the trail. Pootie, that rock is too heavy to pick up… Despite our monitoring of Pootie’s next move, he reminded both Olive and I of what it was like to be that young- always amazed by the simplest things in life and constantly feeling invincible to anything. The best was when we caught him chewing away at a stick like a dog in the backyard. We couldn’t help but look at him and laugh.
“What you eating there, Pootie?” I asked him.
“A thick,” he said.
“A what?” I asked again.
“Oh stop it,” Olive said.
Pootie didn’t have his two front teeth (still doesn’t), and we always got a kick out of the way he’d pronounce some words. I imagine my parents got the same laugh when I had my two front teeth missing also.
After our adventures by the water, all three of us would hike a bit more till we came upon the fitness trail. There were never any signs explaining what to do so all three of us would guess the exercise at each station. Each park visitor that would walk by always took second glances of us as we performed our own correct version of the exercise at each station.
Both times we ended our visit at Riverside Park by racing one another up the hill and into the parking lot. And, each time Olive and I let Pootie win despite the fact that we knew he’d brag about it right afterward. I win, I win, he’d say.
“You know what I told you I’d get you if you were good, right?” I say to him.
“Yeth,” he said.
“What?” I asked.
“Swedish fith,” he said.
“Yep,” I said.
Looking back on Riverside Park, I do admit I fell in love with everything about the place. I fell in love with the way the water brushed against the rocks like a painter’s brush on a canvass. I fell in love with the way the pines on the trees swayed to the breeze like a field of ballroom dancers. And, I fell in love with the way the squirrels and other small furry animals would scurry by us as if they had somewhere to be.
But, most of all in Virginia, I fell in love with Olive and our random moments with Pootie. That, I will never forget.
About the Author: Spencer Shaak resides in Paoli, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. He is currently a graduate student in Rosemont College’s MFA Creative Writing Program. Spencer loves to blog and write stories about people and places read more at http://ifodige.tumblr.com/