I was never an outdoorsy or physically active kid. My childhood was spent as the chubby kid who was always buried in a book. This personality trait killed my mother who as a young and energetic person loved to constantly be doing something lively. Unfortunately, my older brother Hugo and I both came out as bookworms. Growing up, our punishment wasn’t to go sit in a room by ourselves and be quiet for a time-out. That was our personal heaven. My mother had to resort to punishing us by doing the opposite and sending us to play outside. Hugo and I never knew what to do in the outdoors. As a kid, I genuinely believed that I was just allergic to pretty much everything one finds outside. I even made the argument to my parents that I couldn’t contribute to helping out with yard work because my skin was too sensitive and I’d break out in rashes. Yea, I was extremely annoying, I know, but it surprisingly worked! All of the yard work was assigned to Hugo.
One day when I was around nine years old, my mother got an urge to do something different and adventurous with Hugo and I. I quickly learned to fear this urge because I knew it would result in me leaving the comfort of my room and my endless supply of books. My mother announced that she was taking us to Mount Helen, GA for a hike. I immediately threw a hissy fit. At that point in my life, hiking sounded like the worst possible way to spend a day. I hated the outdoors for a reason. Nature involves bugs, sunburn, sweat, physical exercise and overall discomfort. As a kid, none of those things sounded remotely appealing to me.
We took the hour and a half drive to Helen, GA and arrived around 6:30 pm at a parking lot that led to one of the hiking trails. Due to our late arrival, the guard who was standing at the entrance of the trail warned us that the park closed at 7:30 pm. Worried, my mom asked if we had enough time to complete the trail, and he assured her that we had plenty of time to walk. My mother excitedly marched on while Hugo and I lagged behind in misery.
7:30 pm came closer, and my mother continued to force Hugo and I down the dirt path that didn’t seem to have an end in the near future. My brother, who was 13 at the time, suggested that we turn around instead of going to the end of the trail. My mother disagreed; she was determined to do the entire trail. We ended up walking in those woods for six hours. Those were the most terrifying six hours of my childhood. Once darkness hit, we somehow veered off the path. We wandered around aimlessly until around 12:30 am when we found an “exit” out of the forest area and onto the side of an unknown road in the middle of nowhere.
We were forced to hitchhike for a ride back to our car. Luckily, the driver wasn’t a crazy person! He was actually a super nice guy who drove us to the parking lot where our car was, but it was already closed for the night. To add to our problems, my mother had left her purse in the car, which contained her cash, cards and id. The kind truck driver then drove us to a nearby hotel to figure out whom to contact to unlock the parking lot so we could get our car. I feel the need to say at this point that the thing that makes my mother such a fun and carefree parent is her youth. She was 29 years old at the time, but looked like she was 20 years old. I’m not just saying this to be nice to my mom, I’ve heard the line “You guys look like sisters instead of mother and daughter” my whole life. In my teens, it was super annoying because my mother got hit on so much more than me. Anyway, due to her young face the hotel employee apparently thought that my mother was lying about being our parent, so he called the police.
This night is still probably one of the most bizarre nights of my life. Two police officers took Hugo and I to a separate room and questioned us about our mother. They asked us things like, “What’s the name of that woman in the other room?” and “Is she really your mother?” for about an hour. It was extremely traumatizing. After bawling for hours on the hiking trail due to exhaustion and terror, I somehow found the liquid and energy to start wailing all over again in this situation. Hugo kept his cool and seemed confused more than anything as to why the officers refused to believe us when we confirmed that our mother is in fact our mother. Meanwhile, my mother was questioned as well and then taken to the parking lot in order to get her information. Once she proved her age and who she was, the cops finally let us go around 2:30 am. We didn’t get home until roughly 4 am, and we never went to Helen, GA again.