Back from an elongated, dreamy time of rest, colleagues want the highlight reel and the curious want the story.Typically, I’m challenged to distill epic into bullet points, but not this time. There is a story to tell even as it still works out meaning in my heart.
My family was 12 days in Scotland when the fullness of our youngest came into clear view. If you like the bottom line of stories to be told first, I will risk sounding dramatic to say it required a personal sacrifice on par with childbirth in order to witness it.
For backstory, I should tell you I’ve been studying this child for years. She is the youngest of 3 and her older siblings live loud lives. I am rarely surprised by their choices, words, or missteps. Not this one. She keeps her cards close, even with me. And yet, even now that this part of her has come into focus, I can look back and see she has laid down clues since the beginning.
Within hours of landing and exploring the streets of Edinburgh, she was dreaming of future adventures, a travel bug unlocking something in her I had not yet named. The narrow passageways of the medieval town, called closes, were more appealing to her than any major site and we found ourselves threading the Royal Mile. What we didn’t yet understand was her need to traverse the road less traveled.
Days later, we came across a guide book outlining a network of abandoned farm cottages, bothies, throughout the country in which hikers could stay, if they could find them.On a whim, we purchased it for her, and she spent the subsequent two days studying The Bothy Bible, determined to find one near us. On day 3, she did.
Our quiet little enigma was buzzing with energy and the unspoken, non-optional, we-will-make-this-happen look passed between my husband and me. The “trailhead” was at the end of a national park, at the end of a windy road, at the end of a lane closed but for a short window of time in the morning and evening for construction. We waited. We bought a topographical map from the ranger and we opened the compass on our phone. As always, the weather began cool, but sunny, and we were off to find the bothy.
Alone on the goat-path, it started off rather enjoyably. We were walking through a canyon with a roaring river beneath us, no one in sight, and a goal ahead. She was leading and when I could glimpse her face, also beaming. But soon, the clouds rolled in. I added a layer. We crossed the river on a plank bridge and the goat-path disappeared. Frequent stops to consult the map and glances at the clouds unnerved me. The mud got worse and every step became a choice between the lesser of two, soggy evils. My ankles twisted and I lost balance each time I tried to land on a tuft of grass. Eventually, I gave up dodging mud because the ground was a sponge, engulfing my shoes with each step. I was trailing behind and if they had glimpsed my face, also scowling.
As we left the riverside, the wide-open expanse of black and red bog yielded no sign of life, either present-day or yesteryear. Could there possibly be a bothy in that wilderness? The rain turned to hail and then snow. The layering continued. And I? I started to cry.
Would it have been better with proper gear, better weather? Maybe. But if I’m honest, my misery came from the tension of neither knowing how long this suffering would last nor feeling free to quit. Without a doubt, my daughter had finally found her stride. Turning back was out of the question.
I was stuck in all the ways my need for control was mounting mutiny.
And there, in that brutal stripping of the physical and mental, the 13-year old in me, the girl who has held and protected me from feeling out of control all my life, was undone. There was no way I could control my way out of this situation and protect the glory rising in my daughter. My choice was clear. Helping my girls become more of themselves would require I become more of me.
The story is, we found it. And the bothy trek will go down in our family narrative as the place that the whimsy of one 13-year old overpowered the control of another.
Beth Bruno is passionate about issues of injustice and a global sisterhood. Often, this looks like curating the stories and work of incredible women and calling her two teen daughters at least once a day to “come watch this.” Married for 23 years, she and her husband share a love for dark chocolate, dark coffee, and bold wine, among other passions. Their son is headed to college so Beth is not thinking about it by nursing an obsession with Turkish hot air balloons and European villages on her Instagram feed.