Breaking Camp.

by Serge Bielanko

So, we're getting ready to move away from this house. Its the house Violet first came home to in this world; where she took her first bite of applesauce; where she first smiled up at my goofy grins. Its the house where we first brought home our youngest dog, Milo. And its the house where I became a stay-at-home Dad who thought it would be ok to eat peanut butter and cheese and spoonfuls of sweet crunchy sugar and then turned around a year later to find that I have long greasy hair and a pot-belly and I look like a dude sat down and shoveling fried rice out of a styrofoam container behind a case of rookies at a baseball card convention. Whatever.

Now, we move on. And with that comes new life/new ideas/less room/a mountain across the street. At my Mother-in-law's house we will save money; hopefully lots of it. We will save money and I will walk the foothills with my daughter on my back and my dogs running deer. Out there, in the scrub brush and sage, I will lead a Curious Regiment up and down old familiar trails, past waterfalls and silent leering wild cats, stepping over rusted discarded 20-gauge shells, and I will sweat away the pounds with the vigor and vim of an outdoorsy man in his late thirties.

There will be times, I know, when I get short of breath. There are steep unforgiving inclines down that way. But I will persevere. I will eat the pain, revel in the bizarre sensation of butterscotch syrup flooding into my chest cavity that comes when men like me stroll back into the town of Fitness after a year in the wilderness/in the snacks. There will be no stumbling at the precipice, no blurred vision spinning then thumping down into the dust jaw first. There will be no two black dogs circling their master, trying to revive him with pleading whines and tongue touches. And there will be no young little girl named Violet strapped helplessly to the back of her beached gasping Orca/Daddy. No, no, no. no, no.

No. Instead there will be me, rumbling back into my old self after nearly a year of marshmallows dipped in fudge laced with lard and fried in twice-baked butter. Me and Violet and Max and Milo and a busload of ghosts: Mountain Men and Fur Traders and Pioneers and Indians, all of us busting our ass to climb the climbs up to where the views are. Then peering down at the valley spilling out below us...the lake and the football stadium and the highway; the distant mountains to the west, imagining the mountain lions over there looking at our hills like we're looking at theirs.

Summer sweat dripping from my new shorter haircut. Violet saying a word or two. Maybe the dogs jumping some quail from their little hideaway in the slender shade. I'll look over at the mouth of the canyon a few miles down, and tell V about all the beautiful big trout that live in the river back up in there. I'll imagine myself, come Saturday, taking off early in the morning to chase them. We'll watch the setting sun while Mom is at work.

I'll think of pizza slices back in Brooklyn or South Philly somewhere.

Later, I'll make a Greek salad, after I put the kid to bed.

You find ways: to move through this world, through the unexpected moments/months of battered pride, so that you can come out the other end stronger and better, or at least convinced that you are. Life is a series of missteps rewarded with random far-flung glories here and there. I can convince myself of anything in this world.

And that's why I'm still walking around.