It was the second week of winter vacation for the school kids. I remember being like them: energetic and giddy from the excitement of being out of school. Boredom would come eventually, just like it always did, but till then, everything was fun and different.
Maybe that was why I picked the park for my date. It was different compared to our predictable daily routine of work, eat, sleep. It wasn’t a restaurant or a cute busy bistro. It wasn’t the most sanitary place to be either but that didn’t deter Bailey.
Bailey showed up with everything and then some. Blankets, little hand warmer packets for our pockets, and a cooler – or in this case a warmth keeping container – full of food and hot beverages ranging from hot cocoa for him to sweet milk for me. And so we laid out the blankets and made ourselves cozy. We talked about the kids running around us, which, naturally turned into comparing our childhoods to theirs.
It was easy to talk to him but had I known that the topic would reignite a deeply buried and equally deeply rooted childhood wish, I would have steered the conversation towards anything else. I didn’t grow up in Hallow Hills like him. I didn’t know about the big tree that loomed over the town or that nearly every kid had to climb it. Both of which I had the misfortune to learn about while staring at the backside of my tree climbing fiancé.
The kids of Hallow Hills enjoyed carrying on the tradition of climbing, what they call, Old Uncle Rootie. Nobody knows how the tree came about the name but they use it all the same, including Bailey.
“Old Uncle Rootie was my first real tree,” he said proudly. “I worked my way up to it though. I didn’t want to fall and break my arm like my dad or not make it up at all like my brother.”
I probably should’ve stopped him then. I didn’t. Instead I smiled and asked him when was the last time he climbed anything. And that was it. That sealed the deal. Bailey grinned. You could almost see the kid he used to be in his brown eyes. He was going to scale that tree and “show the kids how it was done.”
And so there I stood, watching my fiancé climb higher and higher. His footing was sure and his hands knew exactly where to go. Still, I was nervous. “Come back”, I called up to him. “I get it. You’re a forever climber.” But he didn’t. He kept going. He was willing to back up his claim that he could climb that tree, and I had no choice but to watch as he made it only for his foot to slip on the way down.
I’ve never seen someone fall out of a tree before. He didn’t fall backwards. No. He went straight down, narrowly avoiding limbs, one of which he must have grabbed long enough for him to kick himself away from the tree. That was how he ended up on his back instead of his feet. Neither option appealed to me. A fall was a fall.
I rushed over, asking him if he was okay while calling him every name in the book and all he did, after catching the breath the landing knocked out of him, was grin. This idiot was all teeth. There was even a chuckle in his throats as he told me he was going to go again.
That was how a fun date in the park landed us in the emergency room.