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Same Steps, Different Story

I must have walked this path at least a thousand times over the years. While it still the same route, it is never the same journey.

The foliage has changed: some withered and died, some new, some hanging on and hanging in there with the change of the weather. With those changes come those to the shadows, the different dappling across the day as the leaves and branches play with the sunlight. The trail has weathered some, no longer perfectly smooth as roots have grown beneath, or fauna has routed below, changing the way the soil and sand holds the water and ever so slightly shifts the intrusive concrete.

Millions more steps from so many have trod here, along with bicycles, skates, scooters, and strollers. It is a common path in our community. For me it is along the primary route to the kids’ elementary school and so at least twice a day for many, many days we took it together and eventually they took it alone. It’s also the way to what was, at one time, the primary community center before things expanded, and so often we travelled it, for birthday parties and art classes and music workshops and pool dates and voting and event registrations and various community events.

Today, I walked this path, after my daughter dropped me off, after some last minute errands together, in front of her elementary school, in order for her to save some time as she was headed back to university after a quick weekend at home. What an odd shift in roles…how many times did I leave her in that driveway, watching her skip off toward the building that would house her for a good portion of the day? I’m sure she didn’t watch me wander down the path once I exited the vehicle, as she was late to an event that occupies the interests of a young woman her age.

It was oddly quiet, perhaps because it’s a Sunday, in the middle of a long weekend. Perhaps it was because it was in the peak of the heat in the late summer day. The skate park I walked by was completely empty, unusual for any day, really. But the sun was shining, and the sky was blue, and you could feel that it would not be raining today.

I typically walk down the center of the path when I can, for whatever reason. But then I heard a voice coming from behind me. In the distance. I didn’t bother to turn around, but knew it was approaching. It wasn’t a conversation…it was a monologue. And in the stillness of the day I could hear there was a bicycle involved, the gentle crunch of the rubber rolling on the concrete. I moved over the right.

As expected, a bicyclist came up beside me - a young girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old, resplendent in pink and purpleness and streamers and and sparkles. Her blond ringlets cascaded out of the pink helmet that was slightly askew. She smiled at me as she rode by, and the voice I was hearing was a narrator of an audio book that announced “Chapter 4” as she pulled in front of me. She rode ahead and stopped well before the street crossing, and turned her head to me, but was looking beyond.

I heard collar jingles and dog claws, and more wheels turning behind me. Upon my left came whom she was waiting for - her mother, pushing a baby in a stroller and walking two older, spoiled and overweight dogs, one of whom was literally nipping at the other’s heels. Mom looked at me, sunglasses on, disheveled ponytail, walking/workout gear that is a common uniform among the suburban set, and made mention of how full her hands were.

I smiled and acknowledged her, and her state of mind. “I remember,” I said to her, followed with a soft laugh. “But I’m on the other side of that now…” She laughed. She mentioned that it must be nice to be so unfettered (I was walking only with a drink in my hand), but at the same time there must be a little bit of sadness, and before I could respond, she had redirected her entourage to the west and down a different trail.

I didn’t watch them go. I just took more steps in the direction I needed to go. I just kept walking home.

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