Brett was seven the first time I posted a picture of him standing on a hay bale in this same spot. It was the first of what has become our annual Rappahannock County trip to deer hunt and spend a couple days in my hunt club's cabin. Now he's 10 and growing up fast, but he still loves those hay bales. He and I and his buddy Brady made the trip the day after Christmas. The journey and our time on the property brought me great joy, as it always does, but I left with just a hint of sadness about what the future may hold.
Brett's in fifth grade, and with two older brothers, he knows some things that a 10-year-old probably shouldn't. He's also benefitted from the things I learned with Jake and Nick and has had opportunities few kids his age get, especially when it comes to hunting, fishing and the outdoors. He's my youngest son, and when I'm with him he's my responsibility. At the same time though, I often feel like I'm just hanging out with one of my oldest and best friends. I forget that he's 10 and still in elementary school.
Seeing Brett on those hay bales Tuesday and Wednesday, I rejoiced in the notion that he is still a little boy. I know also that middle school is right around the corner. Brett will continue to find joy in small things like campfires and hay bales, but a year from now there will be no way I can still call him a little boy.
And as we drove past the hay bales on our way home yesterday, I wondered if this might be the last trip with Brett as a little boy. That made me sad, and I got quiet, listening to Brett and Brady chattering in the back seat.
We stopped for lunch in Sperryville and then headed home, the boys nodding off and my eyes on Lee Highway, the sadness gone, knowing that even when my little boy grows up, those hay bales will be part of the man he is.