A few days ago, I was washing windows barefoot on our deck. My feet were hot, and I remembered a story that Evan had shared with us at the Memorial Service at Rowe, earlier this year. Evan was one of Maya’s counselors. Their connection went very deep; they really “saw” one another. I asked Evan if he’d kindly share the story in writing, so that I could post it here for you to read. I’m so glad that he did. Thank you Evan! And much gratitude for your role in Maya’s life.
She hated wearing shoes; that’s the first thing that I should say. Being barefoot always seemed worth it, despite the mud, sticks, and rocks. She loved the freedom of it all. Getting rid of her shoes was Maya’s small way of taking back some freedom, and wriggling away from the rules that 12-year-olds deal with every day. But again, Rowe’s trails and hills were not too easy to walk on, and Maya could get a bruise or a cut if she wasn’t careful. Gazing ahead as she moved from place to place, Maya kept her shoulder blades pulled back, her arms fully extended downwards and resting behind her torso, and her fingers angled upright. Thinking back on it now, I wonder how much of that style of walk came from being barefoot, and how much of it was just her personality. In the same way that Maya always calculated her actions, she calculated her steps; it was a peculiar and deliberate look, and I’ve never seen anyone move like that before.
After about two weeks of the usual no-shoes challenges, Maya’s feet were faced with an entirely new foe — asphalt. It was time for everyone to head over to Pelham Lake, an all-camp field trip. It’s about a 20-minute walk by road, and all of us counselors were strongly suggesting to campers that they bring shoes. Sandals, flip flops, anything. The road there could actually get really, really hot. Maya and I had gotten close by this point in the session, and I knew I was the only shot at keeping her feet off the road. I tried, I definitely tried. But what was I to do? She somehow convinced me everything would be okay, and the two of us joined the rest of camp on the march to Pelham.
Two by two, we all went on our way, with different pairs of people holding conversations at drastically different levels of maturity. As Maya walked on the road, and I walked on the grass next to the road (she insisted), we discussed the drama from that session. Even though Maya was one of the youngest at 12, she knew exactly what was going on. She had a read on just about everyone, and was quick to break down conflicts into the finer points that we, the staff, had completely whiffed on. And yet, Maya seemed unwavered by it all. With one breath she theorized on heartbreak and tension, and with the next she poked fun at me and giggled. It was Maya’s collected demeanor at its finest. But this demeanor would only last so long on the asphalt. After a while, I started to notice something was up with Maya’s step; it was even more peculiar than usual. I asked her what was wrong, to no response. But I knew what was going on, there was no way she could keep it up. “It’s too hot, isn’t it?” Finally, she answered yes, and giggled. At that point it hit me. “Are you doing this just to spite me?” More giggles. She had walked 15 minutes on hot, hot asphalt just to mock me and showcase her will. Of course.
This is a memory that I think back on as very representative of Maya’s determination, though only displaying one sliver of who she was as a complete person. Obviously there’ll never be one story that does her justice, but I’m lucky to have this one.