There he walked, along the trail, carrying his young child pressed up against his side. Sometimes the kid would get a burst of energy and call to be put down. I want to walk. I want to walk. So the father would set the child down and they’d walk together, hand in hand. Soon enough, they’d get tired again and need to be carried. Other times, the father stopped briefly to readjust, putting the child down between his legs and then picking up him and switching sides. Walk. Rest. Walk.
How long did it go on like this? What were their names? Where were they going?
We don’t know. Because this utterly ordinary journey—one you’ve experienced yourself more times than you can count—happened many, many thousands of years ago. The only record we have of it is a collection of fossilized footprints, etched into the sands of time, over about a mile of dirt in what is now White Sands National Park.
It’s really incredible. This was long enough ago that the footprints stand beside those of giant sloths, and yet the scene is relatable and common enough that you may have accidentally recreated it on the beach with your kids this summer. The archaeologists who studied the prints note that they reflect a sense of urgency too—that they would have occurred at roughly 4 mph. Was the parent trying to get home? To get to a doctor? To get away from something? To get out of the sun? To get the kid somewhere to go down for a nap before a meltdown happened?
We don’t know… and yet we know. We’ve been there. This is us. This is the journey we’re on, that we’re all on. As parents. As people. As human beings. We’re connected. We’re the same.