Since coming to the mountains of north Georgia, I have been wary of driving. The ice and snow and rain that descended upon us as soon as we arrived played a part in that wariness, but mostly it was my anxiety. I had been to town a couple of times on my own, but for the most part I avoided driving and had not even considered going anywhere just me and Bird.
A month before Bird and I visited the Etowah Indian mounds, I would have laughed if Will had suggested such a thing. There was no way she and I could go on a day-long adventure, just the 2 of us, to a place I had never been. Absolutely not.
And yet, Will is not the one who mentioned it.
Almost a month into taking medication for my anxiety and depression, I honestly feel like me for the first time in a long time. And with that feeling comes the confidence to parent on my own. To leave the camper and campground and state park. To go into unknown territory. And it feels amazing.
The night before our adventure, Will and I were playing cards and I realized I did not want to spend the following day in the camper or in the campground. It was the weekend, the campground was full of campers, and it was just not going to be warm enough on the mountain for us to spend a ton of time outside.
Since we also needed a few things from Target, I decided to find something fun for us to do near the closest Target. That is when Will spotted the Etowah Indian mounds on the map.
We arrived mid-morning on a Saturday, and even though there were several Boy Scout troops also visiting the historical site, we managed to time our visit between 2 groups, essentially having the place to ourselves for the majority of our visit.
I would like to be able to provide a summary of the history of the mounds or some interesting fact, but I visited with a 2-year-old, so we did not spend much time in the museum or reading the plaques (sparse as they were). (I do know that 1 of the 3 mounds is a recreation as it was wholly excavated to uncover artifacts, and the other 2 mounds are thought to have been much taller before they were also explored.)
As we walked from the museum toward the mounds, I asked Bird if she wanted to go to the tall 1 we came to first or if she wanted to climb the shorter 1. She had already announced that she was climbing the stairs by herself, and truly I did not know if I could handle carrying her either up or down either of these mounds. She opted for the shorter 1 and proceeded to expertly climb all the way to the top. As soon as we reached the top, though, she turned around, pointed to the taller mound, and announced that she wanted to go that 1. Of course.
The taller mound is currently around 65 feet tall, and it was known as the Temple Mound (I guess I did learn a little bit). I do not know how many stairs there are to the top, but Bird again killed it, slowly and deliberately making her way 100% on her own to the top…with several stops and gasps of “wow!” along the way.
While we sat on the bench at the top of the mound for our snack, Bird looked over the vast grassy area in front of us and declared our next activity would be to “run down there” (across the grassy fields below), which, once we slowly made our way back down the stairs, is exactly what she did.
If nothing else, motherhood has instilled in me more patience than I ever thought I could have. I wanted nothing more than to pick her up and carry her down the steps (mostly because I am slightly afraid of heights, but also because oh my goodness we could not have gone slower), but I took a breath, I watched the pride on her face as she realized she could tackle “yots and yots and yots” of steps. I saw the smile on her face when we finally reached the bottom and I told her to look back up at what she had just done.
And then we ran through the grass. Stopping abruptly several times to look at flowers/weeds.
We made our way to the river, where she threw a couple of sticks into a bigger pile of sticks and walked back and forth and back and forth across a really big bench.
I took a breath when I was a little sad that I did not get to enjoy every artifact on display in the museum and instead decided to enjoy the experience through Bird’s eyes.
Once we wrapped up our visit to the mounds, we ran a few errands. While eating in a restaurant and shopping at Target are certainly things I did not think my 2.5-year-old would find exotic, the pandemic has changed what we have done with her over the past 2 years. And yet again, it was so rewarding to step back and see things from her perspective (you know, like the carts at Target having cup holders and the napkin dispensers on the table at the restaurant!).
As I walked around the truck after buckling her in the car seat to start home, I momentarily stopped in my tracks because I realized that for the entire day, I had had the biggest smile plastered on my face. Most adventure days, even when we are out as a family, I feel anxious and overwhelmed. On days where it has just been me and Bird, those feelings are what have kept me from initiating more mother-daughter days out. I felt like I simply did not have “it” in me to go very far, do much, or have any goals or expectations for the day.
But I do have “it.”
And oh my goodness, it was just the most amazing day.