The Mountain

The Mountain

Hudson rounds the concrete corner, gathering speed. Ahead, The Mountain looms large. He hasn’t yet cleared the top without falling. At nine, he’s one of the youngest at The Skate Park. All around him, high school kids clear every obstacle with unassuming grace. If they are scared, they don’t show it.

Weakness attracts derision. And nobody wants to be seen as the outcast.

Hudson bears down. His legs pump. The energy propels him upward against the increasing pitch. Momentum launches him into the air at The Mountain’s peak. The instant of weightlessness is still foreign to him and he goes down again, tumbling like a snowball, bouncing against the hard pavement.

Others are watching.

It’s not the fall that they will judge. It’s how he reacts to it.

Hudson has fallen enough times that he can get up without thinking. But I know he is thinking. A nine-year-old is a follower. Friends are the coin of the realm and he doesn’t want to lose the potential here. I detect the slightest wince on his face. He wants this bad. He’s mad that he didn’t get it right. That overcomes whatever pain his body might telegraph to his brain. Hudson is on his feet, pressing forward into the next turn.

He’ll try again.

He knows who Michael Jordan is. But Hudson is still too young to fully understand the wisdom of the quote.

“I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

He’s just driven to be accepted; to be seen as worthy.

A sixth sense tells me to record this lap. Hudson usually stops at the precipice just before the swirling dip that skaters use to build speed before scaling The Mountain.

This time he doesn’t stop.

He dives into the valley, centrifugal force pressing his legs downward into the final turn. He has the power. Does he have the coordination?

Hudson’s brow furrows. I wish he could concentrate like this when doing his homework. A single desire drives him upward into the jaws of The Mountain.

Only this time, he floats in the air like an astronaut. His arms fold into a tai chi pose. His legs maintain the loose / rigid spring of a shock absorber. Gravity pulls his body downward. He lands with the precision of an Olympian, elbows pulled tight against his chest, like Paul Hornung protecting a football.

I can see him stifling the joy. You don’t want to let that show either. Be cool.

I’ve got the moment recorded. I pop the video into a text message, documentation for his parents.

Hudson knows what I’m doing. “Keep recording,” he yells as he rounds the curve and rockets past the precipice. “I’m gonna do it again.”

My grandson will fall a few more times before confidence and practice build muscle memory and skill. Two weeks later, he doesn’t fall. He sails over the mountain top every time with confidence, his eyes scanning the skate park for the next challenge.

Hudson learns another lesson.

Just because he masters one obstacle doesn’t mean he is perfect.

Maintaining his powers requires dedication. And achievement doesn’t earn him the praise he so badly wants from the older boys. He learns to accept the subtle uptick of eyebrows, the almost imperceptible nods. The world doesn’t love him with the same overt intensity we do. Some of the boys will ridicule him, perhaps even try to trip him up.

I have confidence that he will learn to cope with all of this. In time he will understand that satisfaction is defined by the intrinsic joy that comes with mastery; that self acceptance is all that really matters.

But those lessons are in the future. Hudson clears The Mountain again, picks up speed and starts another lap, immersed in the adrenaline high of the moment, focused on putting one skate ahead of the other. And pressing on.