Monday, June 11, 2012

I'll Walk

"It's hard to explain how a few precious things seem to follow throughout all our lives . . ." (--Kenny Loggins, "House at Pooh Corner").

My mom didn't have a car or even a driver's license when my siblings and I were young, so we did a lot of walking, especially in the summer.   And Mom did a great job of making walking fun--we'd sing along the way, skip to a certain landmark up ahead, stop to play Pooh Sticks at the creek, hide in stairwells, and sometimes stop for banana popsicles on the way home.  When I got older, I walked to town and to the pool by myself most days, singing show tunes along the way. Later, when Steve and I were newly married, we moved to New Hampshire. Our old Pontiac broke down on the trip north, so after we returned the U-Haul truck, we had no transportation other than our feet.  We walked everywhere those first few months in Concord. It ended up being a great way to get to know our new town, and even after we got a little car, we still took a lot of walks, just for fun; we walked around beautiful neighborhoods and dreamed of our future.  We were still a one-car family when our oldest was born, so after Steve started teaching, Ben and I walked wherever we needed to go on weekdays.  Even after the other two were born and we acquired a second car, the kids and I still walked to town and to the playground and library; well, I walked--they rode in the stroller or the wagon, then pedaled tricycles, tractors, and eventually two-wheelers.  In those days, I rarely got out for a walk by myself.  I didn't even realize how much I missed those mind-clearing, thought-organizing, perspective-restoring walks until I started taking them again after the kids got older.  Later on, when our nest first started to empty and I was struggling with my sense of loss, I walked and walked and walked, often with tears streaming down my face.  I consciously tried to vary my routes so people wouldn't start worrying about "that crying woman who always walks past here."  I'm in a better place now with the whole empty nest situation, but I still walk a lot, especially in the summer.  I headed out for a walk around nine this morning; I was trying to beat the heat, though it was already eighty degrees when I left the house.  I had my iPod with me (I've been on a Louisa May Alcott kick for a while now--I've listened to Little Men, Good Wives, and Jo's Boys and am working my way through Eight Cousins now), but like most days so far this summer, I didn't get around to pressing play until I was nearly back home again.  I was too busy noticing things: a grandfather lifting his grandson up to press in the code on the garage door, neighbors chatting across a hedge, a young dad pushing a barefooted baby in a stroller, explosions of color in cheerful, well-tended flower gardens, and a white-haired woman watering the hanging baskets on her front porch--she had these great pulley-gadgets that allowed her to easily raise and lower the baskets (when I complimented her flowers, she told me all about her new gadgets and demonstrated them for me--two for $5 at Home Depot for anyone who's interested).  As I passed the White Inn, there was a sprinkler watering the grass; almost without thinking, I slowed my pace so it would spray me as I passed.  I walked on, feeling a little foolish but refreshed, and all of a sudden, I was reminded of my little girl self walking with my mom.    And that's when I realized going for walks is one of the things I've been doing my whole life.  And I'm never just walking: I'm thinking and praying, planning and dreaming, watching and remembering.  And sometimes, like today, I'm even skipping a little bit on the inside.  My mother taught me well.  I hope my legs hold out and I can keep walking the rest of my life.

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