Tag, You’re It, Part 1: Climbing to the Top

I stood with my hands on the stroller handles at the bottom on the hill, sizing it up. I climb this hill every Wednesday morning on our way to Kindermusik. It’s long and steep, but I’m used to it. Unless I have a backpack full of hardback library books to return on the way home, or unless it’s a sweltering summer day and I have fifteen-month old in the front pack as I often did when Noah had music camp in the same building the summer before last, climbing it is routine.

But nothing is routine these days. I’ve been sick for about three weeks with a killer upper respiratory infection. I have a cough like no other I’ve ever had in my life. When a bad fit is upon me any of the following things might happen: I could gag, or wet myself, or feel shooting pains in my head or see stars, or any combination of these things.

I am also very short of breath. At the worst point, about a week ago, I could barely climb a flight of stairs without getting winded. During Thanksgiving weekend at my mom’s house, I was trying to carry June out of the bathroom after a bath and my mom said my breathing sounded like I was in labor. (She took my naked, towel-wrapped daughter from me and carried her upstairs.) I’m getting better. Yesterday I rode the exercise bike in the basement (albeit very slowly) for ten minutes and I raked leaves for another ten. Partly I was testing myself to see if going to music class this morning was even feasible. I thought it was.

There are speed bumps about one-third and two-thirds of the way up the hill. I told myself I’d stop at those spots and rest. I made it to the one-third mark, but the evil thing about this hill is it gets steeper as you go up it, so I ended up having to rest again well before the two-thirds mark. I lost track of how many times I stopped; I think it was at least a half dozen. I breathed hard; I coughed a lot. About three-quarters of the way up I stared at the last, steepest part of the hill in despair, wondering how hard June would cry if I gave up and we just went home. Pretty hard, I thought. We once tried to attend a make-up class that had been cancelled (unbeknownst to us) and when we got to the dark and empty little building in the park and then had to turn around to go home, June cried for fifteen minutes straight. So, remembering that, I pressed on.

And then I was at the top of the hill. I was so tired, I wasn’t even happy. I wondered grumpily why people climb mountains anyway. Why put yourself through something like this?

Soon we were inside. The familiar songs played. We danced and rang jingle bells. (I made sure to sanitize my and June’s hands before we touched the instruments.) I got to talk to grownups during class and afterward on the playground. It turns out a large proportion of the kids and adults present have the exact same cough. The teacher said her doctor says half of Takoma Park has it and that it lasts six weeks on average. We commiserated and swapped home remedies. It was nice. It was worth it.

Last month I was tagged twice by other bloggers, which means they invited me to write on a given prompt. Dana, of Luca Has Two Mommies (http://www.lucahas2mommies.blogspot.com), tagged me to post the fourth photo in the fourth photo folder on my computer and then tag four more bloggers. We have two computers with photos on them so I got to cherry-pick but I chose this one. It’s of Noah the summer he was five, inside the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the Outer Banks of North Carolina (http://www.nps.gov/caha/).

Noah has loved lighthouses since he was three. He had a coloring book called Lighthouses of the Mid-Atlantic States and he memorized the names, locations and heights of the lighthouses in it before he could color inside the lines. He sat through a long multi-part documentary series about lighthouses with us and was probably the only preschooler in Takoma Park who knew what a Fresnel lens and could tell you all about how they work.

Noah’s interest in lighthouses has waned somewhat in recent years, but as a result of his fixation, we’ve climbed lighthouses up and down the East Coast, from Massachusetts to Florida. Some were easy climbs; others were more difficult. Noah’s a sturdy kid and always climbed uncomplainingly to the top even when he was very small (unless the stairs weren’t solid—if he could see through them sometimes he got scared).

On this occasion I stayed below. June was five months old and I didn’t want to lug her to the top. When I have climbed to the top, though, which has been almost every other time, I’ve never questioned if it was worth it. The view from a lighthouse is always sensational. You can see the ocean and the land for miles around. You are up in the sky. It’s a good reminder that there’s often a very good reason for pushing on to the top.

I tag: Tami, of On A Quiet Street (http://onaquietstreet.blogspot.com/), Tyfanny of Come What May (http://btmommy.blogspot.com/), Swistle of her own eponymous blog (http://www.swistle.blogspot.com/) and Holly of The Post Party (http://pushontildawn.blogspot.com/). Holly’s my cousin and the mother of Annabelle, who’s just about the most photogenic four-month-old baby on the planet. Annabelle also has spina bifida, so Holly and her husband Matt know more than most people about climbing to the top even when the hill gets steep.

To recap: Your mission, if you choose to accept it:

1) Choose the fourth picture folder on your computer
2) Choose the fourth picture
3) Explain the picture
4) Tag four other people

I look forward to seeing your pictures and hearing your stories.