Halfway through my morning walk, I am huffing and puffing to get up the hill. There aren’t any hills on my route where I live. But as I am back home for Spring Break, I get to trace some of my childhood steps as I take my walks.
I start by walking up the street that is closest to my house. My neighborhood was comprised of three dead-end streets with little or no traffic, so it holds my memories of flying around on my bike with my friends and all the games we played in the street. We threw frisbees, we chucked rocks over power lines, and we rolled golf balls down driveways to see which was the fastest in the bucket.
At the top of the hill, I step outside of the boundaries of my childhood stomping grounds. I faithfully look both ways as I cross the “big street” even though I know no cars are coming. And I wish I had my bike to fly down the hill on the other side.
Next comes the Wooden Park, where I broke my arm right before starting first grade. The offending piece of equipment is no longer there, as the park is almost nonexistent now. I miss the tall slide and the swings. I miss the sound and sight of children playing right there. It’s a little too quiet now.
Across the street is the cemetery. It’s a great place to walk and even a better place to think. There are familiar names in every direction—that’s part of growing up in a small town. My grandparents are there, as are friends from town and friends’ parents. Sometimes walking through makes me sad, and sometimes it just brings up sweet thoughts of those who have passed.
After leaving the cemetery, I head down the very same road that I once traveled to walk to school each day. In elementary school I walked with my neighborhood friends. We spent every spare moment at home together, playing outside until the streetlights came on—but once we arrived at school we went into our separate worlds. I can still imagine us strolling down the asphalt road, though, our bags swinging from our arms and our lunchboxes in our hands.
Once I get close to the school, I turn off and follow a different route to get home. This neighborhood looks very different than it did when my school friend and I would walk home together. She lived on a side road away from my usual route, but we loved to walk home side by side after a long day in our classroom. Her little house is still there, but the big bush with a hollowed out space in the side is long gone. We used to sit inside that space with our doll dishes and rock plates and imagine all sorts of games. It’s hard to walk past and realize that not only is our imaginary world gone, but so is my friend. I wish I knew where she ended up in life…
On the way home, I walk a little faster through the new neighborhoods that have sprung up in the empty field where my friends and I used to run through the weeds and climb hay bales that were taller than our heads. I had the most wonderful places to play when I was little!
I love talking my walks when I’m visiting home again…I just wish I could walk right back in time and play in all my favorite spots once again.