Family Valued: Belaying The Next Generation

Leaning as far back as possible, I strained to see the lip of Cenote de la Vida, seventy feet overhead. My seven-year-old’s head appeared, a marble in a helmet. I could hear none of the conversations at the cliff edge, so far above me. Thick ropes dangled a few feet away. Suddenly, my boy started dropping in slow, spurting arcs. Instinctively, with arms outstretched, I moved below the ropes, feeling like a very inadequate catcher in the rye.

That day, we were the only Americans in Tres Reyes, a tiny village in the middle of the Yucatan jungle. One grandmotherly local came out to chat with the three of us in stilted Spanish and unclear hand signals, building a bridge past my generation to my child’s. The community surrounds a huge cenote, a sinkhole formed millennia ago by the collapse of the limestone upon which the Yucatán floats. Some of the holes are filled with water; this one no longer was.

Later, we would hike through the jungle to Chimuch, a cavernous cenote accessible only through a thin hole. Descending down rickety candle-lit stairs, we found a beautiful fresh-water pond where we swam in cold clear water. Afterward, we climbed up the slick passageway into the sun, momentarily blinded as we emerged.

I had rappelled into the Tres Reyes cenote first, needing the reassurance that the gear was safe. This left Aaron beyond my reach in a visibly life-threatening situation. The ropes hung down beside me like tendrils stretching out from the future, the first view of my son beyond my protection, my control, my vision, and my life.

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