Finally, the volleyball match. Not much to say, but it introduces something my daughter wanted to put in the story: the rules of cool. We get to see Julie trying to figure out what it means to be cool. Some foreshadowing for...
My life so far, episode 8: The ride
Letters : 16273 Words : 3075
Finally the bike ride and the creek! This was one of the first ideas my daughter had, and before you ask, no, it's not auto-biographical. Well, some of the details of the bike ride are inspired by real life events (in a non naturist setting). It's also the last chapter with only the 6 original characters.
Peter was busy preparing his family's bikes and I noticed that they had a sort of towel over the seat, with an elastic holding it in place. We didn't have that, and later when I asked my dad, he said it was too fancy. At worst, we can wash our leather seats. It's not like we are sharing them.
The lunch prep was like a well choreographed ballet, where each dancer knew their part and were able to expertly execute it. Except for Mindy that is.
She kept being in the way, bumping into us with her elbows and unsure what to do.
Clara eventually grabbed her by the shoulders when her daughter was starting to get frustrated and just gave her the most important task: To play Tetris with the two lunchboxes.
Mindy calmed down, smiled, and grabbed the two small coolers and put them on the table.
My mother later told me they were bought together, back when I was a kid and still a naturist.
I would put the bread in the toaster, while the two mothers prepared three different mixes, some with eggs which were boiled and then mixed with some mayonnaise and herbs, some with cold chicken which were mixed in a blender, and the last with pre-chopped ham.
The herbs were not the same between them, but I learned that a few were cultivated by Clara herself, in a shared garden at the resort.
Everything smelled great, but Mindy thought the eggs smelled bad. Honestly, today, as an adult, almost everyone looks at me weird when I cook eggs, but I love the smell. Since I was a young kid. I did go through a vegan phase later in my teenage years, but I replaced meat with eggs and fish, mainly tuna. It didn't last.
We did pack some emergency clothes, and Peter explained why.
The resort was built on a farm. The original owners didn't buy it. They inherited it.
For a few decades, most of the farms stayed in operation around the area where the original resort was. The naturist farmers did wear clothing on the farmland, due to neighbors being able to peek in.
But they bought some neighbors, for the farm itself at first, and then, increased the size of the resort. The process was repeated one more time, and as such, we can be naked not just within the gate itself, but also in portions of the inner plot of land which are far enough from the edge of the resort owned land to allow nudity.
In theory, to see naturists hiking out of the fence, you need to trespass on their property or have pretty good binoculars, but someone might and in that case, we need to get dressed quickly.
Hedges were planted, but it's not perfect and as such, we can't hang out just outside the fence. We need to hurry from the back to further infield, something done easily on bicycles.
The land is still cultivated, but it's rented to tenants who are fully informed about the people who sometimes hike in the nude. It's not them we have to worry about. I learned that some of them wave at the naturist hiking and sometimes, they talk to them. A few even vacation at the resort or relax there after a long day in the field.
During the ride, Mindy and I had helmets, as did my mother, but our fathers and Clara didn't bother with them. Mom even tried to get dad to put his, but he ignored her completely.
I wonder if it wasn't some sort of male bravado since Peter didn't put one either.
Both moms had racks on their bicycles as did Peter and they ended up carrying most of the supplies. My dad also took a backpack with ice packs and water bottles. He also had the picnic blanket for some reason, strapped on the outside of the backpack with straps. It could have been on a rack, but he wanted to carry it.
To be honest, I had three main concerns about the road trip.
The first was obvious to me. Would my bike seat be comfortable? The second was about slipping. What if I hit a rock and fall on my bare skin. The third was about riding with adults, would they be too fast?
Right, I had a fourth one, which was, would my bike look like the bike of a child compared to Mindy's, but we had similar ones.
The second issue didn't present itself, thank God! First, the path was in packed dirt and was wide enough to easily ride on it. Second, the sides were in grass or grain and would provide a sort of cushion. My favorite time was riding between rows of corn, which was most of the way, hiding us in a little bubble away from civilization. I still have fond memories of that segment of the ride.
As for the third, my mom was the slowpoke! On the ride back, they even made her ride at the back because she held everyone back, even those in front who waited for her. Clara ended up matching her speed and the two mothers took their time coming back.
My dad and her even got in a fight about her speed settings on arrival, but she stood her ground and Clara defended her.
Don't worry, they made up and were in a good mood for the picnic.
Peter opened the ride, with my dad at the back.
Clara was behind her husband, Mindy behind her mom, and I was next, followed by my mother and my dad. Maybe it's why he was so insistent on my mother changing her speed?
The ride wasn't a straight road, but it wasn't difficult. It did climb and fall a few times, but not enough to hurt going uphill or fall going downhill.
It was mostly smooth.
Even then, I could understand why the trail was where it was: the land on either side was flat enough to allow plowing the field with a tractor, but the meandering trail was on the few more problematic parts.
I'll be honest, when I was 10, I realized something. A bicycle was freedom. On foot, I had a certain distance I could walk reasonably, and that distance didn't include any stores, public services other than 2 small parks, or any of my friend's houses.
On a bicycle, despite being barred from the big boulevards and the highways, I could make it to the public library, to a few of my friends houses and even to a small mall, the HQ for teenage girls I couldn't wait to visit with my middle school friends.
But more than freedom on my movements, there was a level of freedom of the road. I could simply zip around town, not caring about efforts or time to get back. There was this long flat bridge over a railroad not far from my house. Pedaling to get to the top of the bridge wasn't so bad if you didn't stop, but after catching my breath at the summit, going downhill was a thrill that I enjoyed particularly on hot summer days with little wind.
I could make my own wind!
Naturism, I was told, was not just freedom from clothes, but also from sweaty clothes, from restrictive clothes, from dirty clothes.
Mindy, on that afternoon spent talking in my room, mentioned something which didn't seem relevant until now.
She was never scolded or yelled at for playing in the mud!
Think about that. If I went to the park after a rain, and used the swing set, I would have my shorts all wet. If I played in the sandpit, I would bring back "a bucket of sand" which would allow my parents to follow me step by step as my clothes distributed the sand on the floor.
But as a naturist, Mindy could simply shower outside before getting in, and drying under the sun, using the towel she carried everywhere anyway.
Provided it wasn't dirty, but like she told me, naturist kids care more about their towels than about getting a dessert. It sounded like pure heresy when she said it, but I could understand now.
My point is that if my bicycle was my main source of freedom, and naturism was Mindy's main source of freedom, that bike ride was the freest I had ever felt.
I was free from having to walk, free from caring for my clothing. Free from the pressure to dress properly. I was even free from the anger I had been carrying for my parents, thanks to a new understanding between us. I was even free from time itself, since no one between the six of us had a watch, and the adults who had cell phones had left them behind.
We were completely disconnected from outside our little moving bubble.
My little girl's heart was light and each time I hit the pedals, I felt pain from my childhood leaving my soul free to enjoy the moment a little more.
We spent most of the ride doing slaloms between lots, but after what felt like the limits of my ability to pedal was reached, we emerged from between the rows of corn and saw in front of us an idyllic view.
The trail descended in what I can only describe as a mid-point drainage basin.
We had lost visual contact with our creek when we left from the side of the resort, and only saw it intermittently, and crossed it twice, where it flowed under cement pipes to let it flow.
As it went, it had a bigger current of water, so some other affluents drained into it somewhere. Our creak wasn't so insignificant after all.
It was still weak, if I walked in it, it would barely reach my ankles, and I suspect my father might not be able to walk with both feet since it wouldn't be wide enough for him.
But it flowed, and it drained into a natural basin which collected its water, but also those of a bigger channel of water at 90 degrees from us, in a forbidden direction: there lies textiles and another owner.
Unlike the lake at the resort, this little depression was entirely carved into the rock, with erosion eliminating any traces of sand or loose rocks.
The pit was about 4 feet deep, and perhaps 12 feet in diameter. It drained from a crack in the rock which flowed downhill in another forbidden direction, of which the view was blocked by mature oaks casting a shadow on the little piece of heaven.
The water was so clear that you could barely tell its depth, if not for the reflection of the leaves on the water.
We left the bicycles at the top of the depression, and walked the rest of the way. As we did, the sounds of the surrounding fields were drowned by a deafening silence as they were blocked by deliberate boulders moved to create a sort of atrium, protected from the wind and in some cases, offering seats to rest comfortably on.
Birds sometimes sang, but mostly kept quiet, as if they respected the sacredness of the area.
My parents whispered to each other, and when they saw me standing there, speechless, approached from behind, each on one side, and each put a hand on one of my shoulders, behind me.
"Breathtaking isn't it?", my mother said.
"Yeah", was all I could reply.
Mindy didn't waste time, she walked to the water, and went in.
"Oh my God, it's colder than last week", she said.
"There is a cloud cover today," says Clara, who went to see my dad to get the backpack.
It broke our sort of family hug, and soon enough, rocks were picked up to put on corners of the blanket.
Mindy was the only one to swim before eating, but I did put my toes in the water, and realized that I might not be able to get in. It was much colder than the lake, and the lake wasn't warm at all.
By the time I came back, something weird had happened. Both dads were sitting on the blanket, but the wives were close to their husband, and my mom had her head on my father's shoulder, like Clara had hers on Peter that morning.
I looked without trying to look, and shrugged. My stomach was speaking louder than any curiosity I might have.
Don't get me wrong. Nothing was weird. I just, I don't know, was sheltered before? It's not that my parents never showed affection toward each other, more like, I didn't want to see it. I think about it.
And now, I was, and it sort of bothered me.
Where was I in the story?
Mindy came out and decided not to dry herself. She didn't announce it. She just sat on the blanket without using her towel to dry off. She hadn't put her head in the water, so at least, her hair was dry.
I jumped on the egg sandwiches when the lunch boxes were opened. I didn't want to risk losing them.
I had a good share of celery, and carrots, and took one little triangle sandwich of chicken and one of ham, but returned to the egg sandwiches.
I wasn't the only one on them, I swear, but let's just say there were none left when we returned to the resort, but there were still chicken and ham ones.
Fine, my mother also loves them. I didn't want to admit it, but I got that from her. Well, my dad also likes them, but he prefers the other two.
We also did more of the chicken and ham ones, simply because it was simpler: no need to boil them first.
I didn't see them packed, but we had seedless grapes, both red and green, which were a great success. I preferred the red, and Mindy the green, but our parents picked from each. All four of them.
There were a few peaches, but not 6. I know my mom loves them, so I let her have it, but she gave me the last bite of hers, so I could have a taste. Thanks, mom!
We decided to keep the crackers for before leaving, since they were forgotten in the bicycles. The box was put with the tools in my father's front wheel bags.
We drank some water, and I discovered we needed to pee in the wooded area. I had to go, but then, I didn't have any toilet paper.
"Just rinse in the pool of water, if you are worried", says my mom.
I looked at it, and went as fast as I could and then back out.
Mindy called me a chicken and returned to the water, trying to splash me with some of it.
Still, when she came out, she was freezing cold and decided to dry herself to help.
We sat on a rock, away from the blanket, but not away from the view of our parents.
"I am so happy you are here", said Mindy, putting her head on my shoulder, not like our moms did for our dad. More like friends. I knew the difference, but I couldn't articulate it then. Or now.
"You are the first friend I get to bring here. Crazy, right?"
"Yeah, It's sad that not many families actually live here. And those that vacation, don't usually bring a bicycle and it's too far on foot."
"We had friends when we were kids, no?"
"Well, they didn't stick around for long. The town is going to shit, you know that, right?", she says
"I do, but I wouldn't get dessert if I said that word", I said
"Oh, me neither, except when saying that the town is going to shit."
We spent a few minutes, apart from each other, looking at the water. Would we have a future if the town did go to shit? This is the only place we knew. Not the resort itself, the whole area around it. Our schools were here. Our friends were here.
But as the factories closed, people moved away, leaving their empty houses behind with no one to buy them, and with empty houses came fewer clients to buy food, gas, and toys.
My parents knew it, and they focused on clients in other cities and even other states, but Mindy's parents weren't as lucky. They couldn't simply stay here and coordinate remotely.
Peter was an electromechanical engineer who worked for one of the remaining factories while Clara, ironically, was a chef, who ironically, had perfectly sharp knives I could have used to cut carrots.
Neither could easily pack up and leave, and if they did, it would probably kill their naturist lifestyle like it did for my grandparents.
Ok, screw it, I'll spoil it. Peter kept his job. The factory did downsize a lot of the workers, but not him. He stayed until now, and it looks like he might stay until his retirement.
Clara's restaurant closed, and she worked for another one, until it closed too. But then, a miracle occurred.
The chef at the diner on the resort moved away to follow his wife when she lost her job, and Clara took his job.
It was a reduction in salary, but they got free rent on their land as a perk. As a non-taxable perk. She can be pretty much nude 24/7!
Although that's a few years into the future, it's in my current past, so now you know.