My father grew up walking the country roads of rural Georgia. He spent his childhood walking everywhere–to town, to school, to the neighbor’s farm that was miles away. He passed down his love of walking to me and now I’m hoping to share it with my daughters. They’re finally old enough that we don’t need a stroller anymore, which is nice, but stressful in different ways. They’re loose and I’m outnumbered and there are no sidewalks here and I have to corral them like wild turkeys.
When we were young, my brothers and I went for walks with our dad almost every night after dinner, now that I think about it, it was probably to give my mom a break from our constant noise because normally she stayed behind.
We’d set off on our usual route and along the way I had my small detours like balancing along the bricks of a certain driveway or a shortcut through another. We always passed The Purple Lady’s house, where, I kid you not, every single thing was purple–the house, the car, the flowers, even her hair!
Strolling along, I’d ask Papa to tell me stories from his childhood. Sometimes he’d tell me all about going to school in a tiny one room schoolhouse, walking however many miles with a group of kids he could still name as if he’d seen them the day before. And he’d tell me about the first pair of glasses he got and how he was so amazed he could finally see ants on the ground. Or how he and his older brother JR got into all sorts of mischief, pulling pranks on everyone. Toward the end of our walk, I’d run ahead and put my hands and feet in the imprints on the sidewalk on Lancaster St. right before saying hello to the yellow lab that always barked at us as we passed by.
We forget pieces of our childhood until we have children of our own and they remind us what it used to be like. I hadn’t thought about these walks for a long time until I took my girls for one yesterday. Just like my detours, they found their own along a rocky pathway, where I followed behind, feeling that long-lost spark of adventure. Then they hopped from one stepping stone to the next at the house on the corner. The big one pointed out pretty white blossoms blooming on a tree while the little one picked dandelions to carry, and I felt like a kid again, which is to say, happy.