Free range Harry

Free Range

Since I learned to ride a bike, I had free range in my neighborhood. Before that, I was already spending a lot of time outside the house, poking around with my sister Maggie in the back yard swamp for hours on end. We walked ourselves to school from kindergarten through junior high.

Occasionally there would be our little neighbor, Mikey, running down the road to find grownups. “Ben has blood! BEN has BLOOD!” Mix wheels and steep roads and sand, or bare fingers and plate glass, or bike pedals and untied shoes, and accidents will happen. There will be blood.

By the age of 7 or 8 I was riding my bike along Rt. 16, past Memorial School to downtown South Natick: Olde Towne Market, church, the library, the waterfall. By the age of 10, now in Sterling, I was riding my bike everywhere. To the soccer fields, to my friend Wes’s house all the way across town, and eventually to work at Johnson’s Garage or the beach, hoping to run into friends there.

If there was any protocol to keep our parents informed, I’ve forgotten it. Eating at a friend’s house, or sleeping over, I’m sure demanded a phone call home. But at a young age, if I wasn’t spending an entire summer day in front of my computer at home, I was out on my own exploring my world, unaccounted for, until dinner.

This was a lot of set up for my main point: my kids do not have this. They don’t know what they’re missing, and we don’t know how this might handicap them later. The world is no more dangerous now. Seems it was already riddled with pedophiles needing help finding their lost dogs. We barely had seatbelts in the 70s. It feels like as parents we’re just holding on a lot tighter these days?

With this in mind, I’ve given Harry an extra measure of free range on this trip. Unintentionally at first!

On our first day in Reykjavik, we explored the city a bit, walked down to the waterfront, and then back up the hill and found a café.  I was working away on my laptop after we finished our croissants and hot beverages. Harry said, “I’ll meet you back at our hotel.” I distractedly said okay, sure, thinking I’d catch up to him right outside in a minute.

10 minutes went by, and I realized I should probably get out there and join him. I thought he’d probably be looking in the windows of shops on the street outside. No sign of him. I went to the corner, looked up and down both streets. Gone baby gone. I circled the block, starting to worry that I lost my son in a foreign country. Finally I gave up and left proximity of the café and walked to our hotel on a parallel street 3 blocks away.

Harry was sitting in the sun on the front steps, just people watching. My heart rate normalized. I nonchalantly asked him, “How’d you know your way back?” He said, “I was paying attention and keeping track of where we were.” Duh. Same as we did before cell phones.

Harry’s trophy
Harry returns from a solo mission with his fractional iceberg trophy.

So every time on this trip he asks, “Can I go climb on the rocks, or the icebergs, or the seals, or …?” the answer is, “Yes. Remember, we don’t know if there are hospitals in Greenland. Just make sure there’s at least a body I can bring home to your mother.” He respects that protocol. I think he’s right when he said, “I’ve grown up a lot over the last few days.” 

Me too. I’m still watching nearly his every free range movement from an invisible distance, and still checking for signs of breathing every morning when I wake up before him. But that’s on me.

“I’m taking the long way over the mountain. I’ll meet you back at the hostel, okay?” Feels like an eternity, but eventually Harry emerges into view…

3 thoughts on “Free Range”

  1. How wonderful for you both to experience this “free range”. It has revealed a new side of both of you to me. The extreme adventurous nature of your son and the innate frightened parent in you. Never seen either! Cool beans!

Please chime in!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.