An exciting thing about our new house in Virginia is that we have a family of red-tailed hawks living in one of the huge trees in the woods that make up our backyard. It seems to be a mother and two youngsters, who spend their days screeching and flying around our property, perching on the branches of trees and occasionally swooping down into the brush to grab some unsuspecting mouse or lizard in its sharp talons. (So far they haven’t gone after the boys – I think they’re safe, but our 6 year old has been carrying his toy bow and arrow around for protection just in case.)
My upstairs office window is three stories above the backyard, and I have a great view of the hawks’ aerial acrobatics, making for a fun diversion in the midst of the normal day’s deluge of conference calls. There is something peaceful about watching a wild predator dancing amongst the foliage from the comfort of one’s leather desk chair. Particularly when, in the alternative reality, I could be stuck in a Manhattan office tower staring down at snarling taxi cabs. I’m convinced that the cry of a red-tail is inherently better for one’s soul than city traffic.
My bedtime reading book with the boys the past week has been The Last of the Mohicans (the condensed version of the 1826 James Fenimore Cooper classic), which has captured their imagination in new and exciting ways. Dashes through the house and across the grass have turned into whoops and shouts of scouts and warriors attacking the fort. Rifles, arrows and tomahawks are waiting at every turn. There are daily arguments about who can be Chingachgook, Uncas, Duncan and Hawkeye (or if they’re particularly spiteful, Alice or Cora!). Even our two-year-old got into the act, although he looked a bit more like Captain Jack Sparrow than an Indian, but I didn’t want to tell him that.
Saturday morning, I took the two oldest boys out for a hike to a nearby state park and we looped around the lake and surrounding woods for a couple hours. Of course the bow and arrow joined us, as did many tense moments crouching alongside the trail and creekbeds to analyze the tracks in the dirt, certain that they belonged to the dreaded Magua. Sadly we never found him, but it was still fun. I was also reminded of just how easy it is to convince the boys that bears are waiting at every turn to attack our tracking party. Happily, that never did happen either.
As we finished the book last night, I had to explain the meaning of its title to the boys. It’s like saying, “the last of the Smiths”, I told them.
“That’s true, but not our particular group of Smiths. If Mommy and Daddy had had only girls, then Daddy would be the last of the Smiths, since I don’t have any brothers. But since we had three boys, each of you are the last of the Smiths until you have sons of your own.”
“But WHAT if I grew up,” my soon-to-be first grader postulated, “and I turned into a girl, and got married to someone whose name was Mohican, but THEN, they realized I was actually a man, but I didn’t have any sons – then I’D be the last of the Mohicans!”
“That’s really complicated,” his older brother answered.
“Uhhh….” I was stumped.
So we all just shrugged and pondered that deep question as we looked out the window and watched the hawk land on the high branch and send a piercing cry out into the darkening sky. Sometimes there just isn’t a good answer for the thoughts that they come up with!