Every morning for the last month I have been taking a walk. I always take the same neighborhood route, always take my trusty Rascal, and always wear my ruby red Keens. I find it comforting to walk out the front door and not have to decide if I should turn right or left. I always turn right, in case you were curious. Today, as the smell of lilacs wafted through the air, my eyes filled and my steps grew a little heavier.
This is the same walk Cole, Joe and I took together as soon as the lilacs started to bloom. We would each walk a pup. Joe would lead the way out the door, turn right, and Cole and I would follow. After a couple of blocks, Joe would realize that he was not leading a forced march and drop back to walk beside me. Soon, we would both put our leashes in the other hand and hold hands. Cole would dance ahead until he would drop back and grab both our hands. Walking pups, and swinging a kid between us, we ended up tangled and messy. This was often how our life as a family rolled: tangled and messy.
We didn’t use our walks to catch up with one another or make plans for the future, but just stayed in the moment commenting on different plants and flowers, wondering if it would be a hot and humid summer or rain later in the week. Joe would remember snippets of neighborhood stories from when he grew up on Roscoe. When Cole was small and afraid of a neighbor’s big dog behind a fence, Joe would always tell the story about the really, really big, big dog that scared him when he was little and lived on Roscoe Street.
Walk after walk, Joe would point out the neighbor house where baby footprints had been cemented in the sidewalk when he was a boy. The baby had long grown up and moved away, but his faded footprints remained. Walk after walk, Cole would run over to see them.
When we would walk past several Virgin Mary statues, Joe would call out, “Hail Mary!” and his greeting never failed to make me laugh.
There was a rock on our neighborhood walk that looked like a mountain when Cole would teeter off it as a tot. Later, it was just the rock that used to look sooooo big.
Often, when we rounded the corner and walked towards our house, the ice cream man would cometh and Cole would immediately hand me his leashed pup and put out a hand. As Joe dug into his pocket saying, “I’m not sure if I have any money,” he always come up with couple of lint-covered dollars, and as he put them into the grimy expectant hand, he would grumble, “When I was a kid it was only a quarter. Make sure he gives you change.” Cole, racing off to catch the waiting truck, never heard him.
We would meet at the front of the house, and I would gather the leashed pups to take inside while Jo and Cole sat on the front porch. A boy licking his cone, a dad helping by licking the other side, and a mom who was always offered a lick of the same shared cone when she joined them on the steps.
Often, our tongues would meet on that well-used cone, followed by a collective “ewwww!” followed by another “ewwww!” when a dad kissed a mom.
I knew the boy would grow up and have better things to do than take a neighborhood walk with his parents and chase an ice cream truck down the street. But I still expected to be sitting on the front steps sharing a cone and a kiss with Joe.
Today I am a little sad.