My Grandma’s house is nearly 200 years old.
She’s lived there for almost fifty years, in the middle of more than a hundred acres of former farmland. It’s beautiful and peaceful and fun to explore.
On the way to Grandma’s house last week, I told Grace about the cave.
The cave is the stuff of legend and folk lore.
The story I’ve always been told is that the man who built my the farm house was married to an Indian woman who wouldn’t sleep in the house. She needed somewhere to sleep, and so he built a two-room cave for her about three hundred yards from the house.
I explained this to Grace on the way up to my Grandma’s house last week. Her response?
My want to see the cave! When we get to Grandma’s house, can we go see it?
“Sure,” I replied.
The walk to the cave is a veritable hike, though it’s certainly easier this time of year (before the leaves come out on the trees and the weeds and briers begin to grow).
When we finally arrived at Grandma’s house, the cave was the first thing on Grace’s mind. Alternating between being afraid of the spooky dark cave and excited to go on an adventure, Grace insisted that we head out right away.
Having not trekked back to the cave in ten years, I was excited to get going, too.
The first leg of the hike requires walking down the tree row towards the creek. No problem!
Next, we crossed the creek. It was a warm and sunny day, so no one was afraid of getting wet.
I was excited to find what I believed to be frog eggs, and I sprung ahead to show them to Gracie.
A country kid worth anything at all should have known that big mud puddles and copious amounts of skunk cabbage meant that the area between the creek and the cave had turned into a bog in the last ten years.
I haven’t been a country kid for a long, long time.
With the cave in sight, things began to go downhill.
Just as Joe said, “Uh, Honey? This is getting really soft. I think we should go back,” I sunk into the mud.
Fortunately (for me), I had the camera. Otherwise, I’m sure you’d be viewing pictures of my backside waving wildly and asking my husband to come over and rescue me.
I didn’t sink a little bit.
In less than a minute, I’d sunk to my knees.
In stagnant, foul-smelling, rotten, boggy mud.
In the Crocs that I wear when I go hiking. The ones that lost a heel strap to this same creek last year.
I felt like a wild animal stuck in a tar pit. The more I struggled to extricate myself, the deeper I sank into the mud.
“Joe, I’m stuck.”
Less than a second later, Grace began to wail. Mommy’s stuck! Her going to die in the mud! Nooooooo!
“Great, just great! You scared Grace. Couldn’t you think of anything better to say?” Joe yelled. I think he was scared, too, and covering it up with feigned anger.
I’m not sure exactly what Joe wanted me to say in that moment when I was stuck in the mud, but apparently, it wasn’t “I’m stuck.”
I called back, “Gracie, Mommy’s not going to die in the mud. I’ll get out. Everything will be okay!” But I couldn’t really see a way out of the mud. If I raised my right leg, my left leg sank deeper into the mud. There was nothing to hold on to, nothing to grab on to, nothing to pull me out of the sticky, smelly goo.
Did I mention that I’d had a pedicure at a spa in Philadelphia six days earlier? I had.
That’s irony, isn’t it?
I struggled and schemed, but everything drew me deeper into the rank goo.
I decided to stand on my shoes.
Sliding my feet out of my Crocs, I stood on top of them. Using the shoes like snow shoes, I was able to push myself up and out of the mud and glide sprint across the rest of the bog.
The only problem then was that my shoes were at the bottom of two rather deep holes in the mud. I looked back at Joe.
“Can you get my shoes?”
“No!” he yelled.
“Joe! I can’t get them myself. I’ll sink back down in the mud. And then what? We’ll be right back where we started!” There was no way I was going back across that bog. None, not ever.
Being the super man that he is, Joe did a balancing act to keep himself on solid ground and retrieve my shoes at the same time. Grace continued to wail a few steps behind him.
One at a time, Joe released my shoes from the goo. One at a time, he hurled them at me.
Though now more a comedy of errors than a hazard, the bog still separated me from Joe and Gracie.
“Let’s go back to your Grandma’s house,” Joe said.
Yeah, my wanna go back, Gracie whined. This is dangerous!
“Come on, you guys! I was the one stuck in the mud, and I’m ready to go find the cave! Let’s go! Vaminos!” They don’t like my brand of encouragement.
Unhappy that I wanted to press on, Joe tried to pick Grace up. Unhappy that her father was going to get her all muddy, Grace shrieked again.
Wash your hands before you uppy me!
He’s a poor, long suffering soul, that man. He went back and washed his hands in the creek, came back, and picked Grace up.
Finding a different (more dry and stable) path, they joined me at the cave.
We did get to the cave, and we did get safely back.
Frankly, I’m not sure it was worth all of that.
Addendum to the cave story
I have to share this.
Grace was sitting with me last night while I watermarked and cropped my photos. You know what she said?
Mommy! That’s where you took your mud bath!
When I agreed with her, she added, That mud bath was so nice!
I’m not sure what mud bath she took, but mine was definitely not nice at all.
© 2010 – 2017, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.