I believe there are two types of people in this world: those that run and those that walk. And, while this could serve as a metaphor for so many, many things in life, in this case, I mean LITERALLY that there are those that run for pleasure and those that walk for pleasure.
I am a walker. I’m married to a runner. When we were dating, I pretended to be a runner. But, that was just a smoke screen as part of The Woo. So, while I’ve done some running in the past, walking has always been more my bag. I just feel I can better enjoy the view at a slower pace.
When I first started staying home with the boys, Charlie was a baby and Henry was still mostly a toddler. One of my first official acts as a full-time mom was to purchase an obscenely large double stroller – the kind everyone hates. Our urban setting meant walking everywhere was easier than driving anywhere. And, I soon discovered that strolling all over our neighborhood for hours on end offered some of the quietest moments of my day. Two kids buckled into that stroller meant containment and we had regular haunts that became part of our daily routine.
If the weather was cold, I would brew a travel mug of coffee and bundle the boys in blankets and we would stroll to Potomac Yard to watch the massive construction equipment move giant piles of dirt around. I would throw the brake on the stroller and we would take up residence for a bit on the sidewalk overlooking the site. The boys were thrilled to just observe. I was thrilled to drink coffee while it was still hot. The construction workers would almost always wave at us and occasionally, some of the big machine operators would drive over so the boys could get a closer look at their dump trucks and bulldozers.
If the weather was stifling and oppressive, as it often was so close to the river in summer time, we would hop in the stroller, cross a busy Route 1 and explore Target’s toy aisle. Any guilt over fostering consumerism at such a young age was short-lived. Looking at the rows and rows of Legos and Matchbox cars was the perfect way to spend the seemingly endless amount of time between when naps ended and daddy arrived home.
We ran many errands in that stroller and I soon figured out which stores’ threshold could accommodate the width of the stroller and which ones couldn’t. I could pick up prescriptions at the drug store but couldn’t fit through the aisles at the tiny neighborhood grocer. We had to leave the stroller outside at the custard shop but could park it just inside the doorway at the antiques store.
We hit up parks and watched trains, munched on snacks and talked about the weather and wildlife. I got plenty of time to study other people’s homes and watch progress on their renovations in our gentrifying neighborhood. Most of all, our long walks gave me time to regroup, reset and have thoughts that were all my own.
Our current neighborhood is suburban. It doesn’t have all of the conveniences of our last but it does have a certain charm all its own. The homes are designed in a classic Williamsburg style that I can appreciate and when it was built up, the developer took pains to save as many of the tall pine trees and big oaks as possible. It’s lovely to walk through and there’s something to be said for the nice, wide streets where the double stroller fits without forcing anyone from the road.
All last school year it was Millie’s turn in the stroller. She took Henry’s old spot every morning after he boarded the bus, right next to Charlie. Around the neighborhood we would walk. Searching for red-tailed hawks, hunting for salamanders, studying trees, looking at houses and talking about funny mailboxes.
Charlie grew into a conversationalist so our long strolls involved more talking and less solitude. He wanted to chat with everyone we passed. Ask questions about everything we saw. Pester his sister until any quiet was broken. With Charlie, our walks never offered the respite from all of the background noise that I needed so desperately. Instead, it was mostly me shouting, “Speak up!” to the kid asking things in a whisper from underneath the large canopy of the stroller.
Now that fall has settled in to stay, my long walks have resumed. For the first time in years though, I’m pushing our single stroller. With Charlie in preschool, it’s just Millie and I now. And Millie, much like her mama, enjoys the view. She sits quietly on our long strolls, content to look and listen and just be.
Our walks afford me the opportunity to sort out the mayhem in my head. The jumble of to-do’s and schedules and grocery lists and must-get-done’s. It’s quiet, reflective time. Time where my thoughts are, once again, all my own. Sometimes, our walks are the best part of my day.
Since Charlie is closing in on five and stays on his feet most everywhere now, we sold the double stroller. It was taking up valuable real estate in our attic. A lovely woman – a runner – came to purchase it a couple of weeks ago. She wheeled it out to her car assuring me that it would get lots and lots of use.
I can’t help but think our stroller days are coming to a close. Where once there was two, now there is only one. Soon, there will be none. My, how my walks will be quiet then.