I remember the scene from the musical “Hello Dolly” where Cornelius Hackl, played by Michael Crawford, goes on about the elegance of walking. He really sells it. Cornelius and Barnaby, his “PIC” (that stands for Partner in Crime in case you were wondering), have no money for a carriage ride, and they pitch the idea to their dates that walking is the epitome of true elegance and grace. Cornelius is a hopeless romantic and later in the film he shares a stroll with Miss Irene Malloy. Moments before they kiss, they sing the words, “It only takes a moment to be loved a whole life long.”
It’s a delightful treat to witness love. It is an honor to give love away. Today I watched my daughters grow a little and took them on an “elegant” walk around our neighborhood court. I sold them on the idea that we were going on a “Number Scavenger Hunt.” At first, we discussed counting all the houses on our street. Our plan was to count by tally. I ensured they both knew how to properly create a tally mark. “ 1…2…3…4…SWOOSH g oes t he 5.” My intent was to do things quickly so that we could move on to the next “activity”, because there is ALWAYS yet another activity these days. By the time we reached the end of our driveway to embark on our journey, we had somehow talked ourselves into a new plan entirely. Instead of the swooshing tally marks we would write down the house number for each property we passed and then count up the total at the end. Am I the only one in my family that finds data collection fun and enjoyable? Regardless, my kids bought the idea I was selling and off we went.
Along the way we stopped to observe where the house numbers were located. My youngest spotted numbers on a mailbox. I thought, Ooops, two numbers were missing from the side of the box for house #136, will they notice? The one and the three had fallen off at some point, and the six was all that remained. My girls spotted the missing numbers and discussed the mystery of what could have happened to them. My oldest pointed to the curbside. On the pavement at the end of each driveway, you could see the painted house numbers. Many of the numbers had faded. The white paint on the curb was worn down and you could barely make out a three from an eight. One house we stopped in front of, numbers were nowhere to be found. Not on the curb, the mailbox, or the home. How would the mail carrier know what mail to deliver? The absence of proper markings would surely test even the most skilled and organized employee.
As I looked for a clue to tell the girls what the number was, the memory of a man that used to stop by our home popped into my mind. He would come to the front door and offer to repaint our curb for a minimal fee. I don’t remember how long ago that was, maybe it was the year we had just moved in to the neighborhood or shortly thereafter, but the faded paint along the edge of the street made me wonder where the wind took that man. He seemed to have a gypsy soul, and I imagine the stories he could tell of his life adventures.
We approached the end of our court and in front of the house we notice the American flag painted next to the curb numbers. The red and blue paint was pale and worn thin. Yard signs adorned the nicely manicured lawn. This is one of my favorite homes in the neighborhood. The owners host the most wonderful holiday party with an entire room dedicated to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. They set the entire village up and my heart aches thinking that because of the pandemic, there may not be a gathering this year.
My oldest daughter asks me, “Mom, who is Cindy Darling?,” and my imagination takes hold of me again transporting me to a nursery room in London where Mrs. Darling is calming down her husband, George Dear. Wendy is telling her two brothers imaginative stories of Peter Pan and Neverland and father feels it’s time to put the childish dreams away. It’s time to grow up. I break away from this daydream, because daydreaming is what spending time with a five and eight year old looks like, to quickly transition into “MOM-MODE” or “ADULTING”, so that I can teach them something in this moment. There is so much pressure, or so it seems, to be teaching and learning and becoming experts at things overnight. Instant gratification in a fast paced digital world is a tricky skill to manage and teach.
Back to the yard signs. I explain to the girls that the names on the colorful cardboard signs are the names of some individuals running for city council. My five year old then confidently recites our street address and proudly exclaims, “Our city is Walnut Creek!” I feel my cheeks start to lift, something that has been scarce living in the Covid world, and a smile beams across my face. I stand witness to her sense of pride for our little community, which to her seems so much larger than we as adults tend to realize.
Our walk continues and we notice two men unloading lawn trimers and leaf blowers from the back of a small pick-up truck. They are kind, saying hello and then continue on going about their routine. An older gentleman walks down the driveway towards us and we stop a little more than six feet away as we have left our masks at home. We were not expecting much action on our court in the middle of the day and we are unprepared. We exchange introductions. His wife joins and we engage in neighborly conversation. My daughters gain practice socializing with their elders. They are challenged to slow down a bit and I am pleased because they are polite and respectful. Characteristics we value strongly in our family. He teaches them that each house number is six numbers apar,t which provides them a clue in figuring out the house with the missing numbers. We say our goodbyes and elegantly carry on back to our own home.
Like most people, our routines have changed living in this pandemic world. We continue to let go of how our world looked and embrace the family strength that has come from the many challenges. Gratitude fills my breath and I exhale.
These walks, these are moments we share together away from our screens and instead walk among nature with one other. We give our attention to our surroundings, and nature in turn walks with us. She becomes part of our family and she heals us. She restores our soul and strengthens our community. It is along these walks that we notice the details. The details she has hidden in plain sight that make our community special. These moments shine light on what is beautiful and tickle our senses to indulge in their delight. We taste the change in the weather. We feel the air on our skin. We hear laughter among the birds and the leaves dance and sing, some floating to the ground in the breeze. M y eyes rest on my girls. M y gaze sits gently upon their details. They have changed in front of my eyes and yet I can not recall when each of these changes occurred. Slowly. Ever so subtle over the course of their eight and five years.
I savor this moment. I write down these words like the time is slipping away so that I may always remember what the day has revealed to me. Fall has this beautiful way of reminding us to be grateful and to let go. The season reminds me that distractions come in disguise. Distractions rob us of noticing the little details about life that bring us the greatest peace and provide light towards the pathway forward. Details that children see so clearly and adults too easily forget. Cornelius and Irene explain so simply:
“And that is all that loves about
And we’ll recall when time runs out”
I am grateful for the wind, the sun and the music of our community. I am grateful for these moments. Moments that may seem plain and ordinary. A million tiny details that add up to a lifetime of reasons why it really “only took a moment to be loved a whole life long.”
By Rachel Stanford, Resident since 2016