Monday 24 Oct 2016

A Short Walk
AJ Robinson

These days I don’t walk much. I don’t have the time. Living in Florida, it can be very hot outside! Yet, I do get out occasionally.

Over the last couple of years, as I’m no longer working as an engineer, no jobs, I work at whatever I can find. A night-time chaperone, census taker, stock boy and so on. I also write. There have been plenty of times when I was home for long periods, with nothing much to do. Now sure, I’d make cold calls for jobs, send out resumes and do my writing. Always, I tried not to sit around all day; my wife encouraged me to get outside for at least a little while each day.

I started going for a walk, taking our dogs with me. Shakespeare and Romeo loved it. We soon had a regular routine: up Kingswood, down one of the side streets, depending on how far I wanted to walk, down the back road and then over on Beatrice to get back to the house.

Walking along, no cell phone, no mp3 player or such, I had time for quiet reflection. I thought back to a short walk I took almost every day for seven years. It was the walk from my house on Jason Street in Arlington, Massachusetts, to Parmenter School, where I attended K through 6th grade.

Ours was your stereotype middle class suburban neighbourhood. Jason Street ran from the park, a great place to fish, play and skate, down the hill to Mass Ave. Every morning, my mom gave me my lunch and sent me on my way. Walking down the wide sidewalk, I saw many kids on both my side of the street and the other, all headed the same direction. We’d call out to each other, chat about things, and I’d pass the landmarks that never seemed to change.

There was the big round prickly bush, the dear old woman walking her Bassett hound; his name is lost to me, but I think it was “The Colonel” or “The General.” Year in, year out, they were always there. On the other side of the road was the pure white chow dog; so well behaved, she never left her yard. Some kids would stop and “talk” to her; they’d howl and then she’d howl.

At the intersection of Jason and Gray was the crosswalk guard. I think she was a policewoman. Back then, that was the only job a woman who wanted to be a police officer could do, other than being a meter maid! Yeah, I know, sounds silly today, but you have to remember, back then the term was policeman. Anyway, she’d stand in the center of the intersection, stop the traffic and signal us to cross.

Year in, year out, I made that same walk. I wore my raincoat when it rained, my snow pants and parka in winter, and lighter clothes in the warmer weather. Back then, I had a sense of permanence to my life, things didn’t seem to change, especially that walk. I would talk with my friends, visit with the old woman and her dog, wave to the policewoman and pass the same homes and landmarks. Even the cracks in the sidewalks started to become familiar friends. I was so upset when the Public Works crew came and fixed them!

On the last day of my year at Parmenter, my mom wrapped up a jar of jam as a gift to the crosswalk guard. I chatted with the old woman, patted her dog, gently and waited for the signal to cross Jason Street. I gave the policewoman the gift. She was quite surprised and touched to receive it. I continued on my way. Looking back, I don’t recall thinking the day any different from the previous ones – I was just excited that it was the last day of school. When you’re eleven, important transitional events are rather lost on you.

In “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge speaks of being able to walk the path to his old school blindfolded. It’s been many years, but I think I could make that short walk of mine with my eyes closed. Funny how such things stick in the mind, huh?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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