Mitch at age 7 (don’t let that innocent grin fool you)
As a boy, I always assumed adventure lay just beyond the signs that said, “No Trespassing.” And, in a way, I still do.
“Making a beeline.” That was what my buddies and I called it. Little did we know we were inventing parkour! “Over, under, through—never around!” That was our motto. We had a long walk to school, so we turned it into a dare by moving from the sidewalk onto people’s front lawns. Good start, we decided, but not enough! So we moved our “beeline” a little further in each day, until eventually we were climbing through bushes, over fences and trees, and most exciting of all, over parked cars! Sometimes we’d hear “adult words” from kitchen windows.
We eventually replaced our beelines with something even more daring: “Short cuts!” Which meant cutting over to the next street by sneaking between houses and through adjacent backyards. Exciting? Oh, yeah! Especially when we heard really adult words, and had to scramble like the wind (if wind could, you know, scramble).
But then one day a be-toweled girl coming back from her shower spotted us passing her bedroom window (we never saw her). Seconds later, her dad chased us out onto the street, shouting really, really adult words. And when we ran away, he fired up his car!
At the corner, I found a bed of ivy and dove in. The man repeatedly cruised by. I was afraid he’d see my heart beating up out of the ivy, but he didn’t. He did, however, see and capture my buddy Rory, and demand that Rory take him to his house. So naturally, Rory took him to…
My house. When my mom answered, the conversation went:
“Is Mitch here?”
“No, honey, he’s with you.”
And then Rory ran through our house, out through the sliding glass door, and over our backyard fence.
When I came home, Mommandad were waiting to tell me about the “very unhappy man” who’d informed them that my friend “Gus” and I were “peeping Toms!” I had a lot of explaining to do, about our beelines and shortcuts and the fact that we honestly hadn’t seen the guy’s daughter, and even if we had, what was it we weren’t supposed to see and why would we both be named Tom?
A couple decades later, on an early date with the woman I’d eventually marry, I spotted a “No Trespassing” sign hanging from a chain and started to climb over it. “Stop!” Trudy commanded. “But that’s where adventure lies!” I reasoned. “No!” she explained. It was our first argument. Still, the date was magical. She’s been teaching me how to follow guidelines ever since. And I’ve been demonstrating…
How to stretch them.