I've always been a tomboy.
I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys, so my best friend, Carrie Baumgard, and I would try our darndest to hang with the boys.
Most of the time we were successful, except that time Carrie broke her arm in a game of tackle football. But all in all, we made it safely through our childhood somewhat unscathed.
So, I was excited when a few of my soccer players asked me to hang out with them on the RiverWalk. A good game of Manhunt would take me back to my childhood, which is becoming more and more of a nostalgia I long for in these days of wrinkling skin and graying hair.
But we didn't go to the part of the RiverWalk I knew -- the part just below downtown where I ride my bike and grab a sandwich at Momma Goldberg's. No, we meandered around the part behind Bibb City because this was "their" part of the RiverWalk.
At one point, my girls asked excitedly, "Coach, ya wanna see our fort?" A fort! Well, of course. The last fort I had was above Carrie Baumgard's garage.
Down a small overgrown trail we walked to the edge of the Chattahoochee. There under the twisted roots of a massive tree was a hole in the bank just big enough for two people. This was nothing like mine and Carrie Baumgard's fort.
Ours had a cool ladder, a trap door, windows, a floor and a roof, and even electricity. They bounded into the hole with a youthful innocence I envied. All I could think about were snakes and creepy crawly things, so I claimed an old back injury to hide my fears and stood above in the safety of stable ground.
We then took our shoes off and hopped the rocks out into the Chattahoochee. Moments later, a loud horn blew, and the neighborhood kids took off toward shore. They urged, "Coach, hurry up, they're about to open the dam." Thoughts of drowning certainly created in me an impressive haste, and in a matter of minutes, the Hooch had covered our rocks and filled their fort.
I took them for ice cream after that, and we sat in a big booth laughing and acting silly, and on the inside, I was having a moment -- one of those adult moments when we stop time in our minds and soak up an experience. I was having that kind of moment sitting in that booth, surrounded by kids whose playground is the RiverWalk behind Bibb City. Surrounded by kids who suck the marrow out of life because sometimes that's all they are given. Not the meat, but the marrow. I sat in that moment considering how truly blessed I am to teach these kids, because I get to experience moments like that on a daily basis.
Sometimes I think I learned more lessons from them then they learned from me. I wish I could go back and sit in that booth again, have some ice cream, and watch them live in the moment. Sometimes I wish I could have a re-do at the fort and climb inside without fear, alongside a group of kids who make the very most of what they have.
As I'm getting older, I'm realizing I can't take off running from my hiding place in Manhunt without pulling a muscle. I'm rebelling against the reality that my skin is starting to droop. And I'm reluctantly admitting that I have to make lists now so I don't forget things.
But these kids, these lessons, I will never forget. So, adults, find a fort to crawl inside today. Or grab some ice cream with a bunch of kids. I promise you'll taste a little marrow.
-- Sheryl Green is an independent contractor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org