I never rode a bus to school when I was a girl. I walked. It wasn’t 10 miles in the snow, uphill, both ways. No, nothing like that. It was a simple, mostly flat, couple of miles. Mom walked us to the corner every day. Then, most of the kids in our neighborhood, walked on together in little groups of 2 or 3, with our friends or siblings. It was a daily event. Every morning.
In the afternoon, we did the whole thing in reverse. Walkers were dismissed first. We turned the corner onto the sidewalk along a major roadway. Sometimes we went across the street to the drug store for candy via the crossing guard. Others we went straight on down the roadway crossing intersections at the lights and then moving onto side streets. There were, of course, a couple of “haunted” houses where our pace quickened as we passed by. There were dogs that followed us and older kids who teased us. Joining together was the key to facing our fears.
Once we turned into our neighborhood, we knew the houses and who lived in each one. Our group would get smaller when we walked down the street as kids peeled off at their houses. By the time we reached our house, there were only a couple of kids left to walk on past us. Mom met us part way, and we chatted about our day as we walked.
There was a bully who lived at the top of our street. Me and my friend Robyn used to cross to the other side of the street to avoid walking past his house. One day he crossed over to follow us. Then he started squirting us with a squirt gun. We ran from him. He chased us. He was calling us names and managed to go around in front of us. He turned back and held the gun at us squirting our faces, and knocked our bean plants out of our hands. I still remember being afraid, but also angry that he had the nerve to try such a thing.
We were so proud of those plants. We’d be growing them at school in milk cartons for weeks, watching and waiting. They had finally sprouted and grown enough to take home. Our plan was to plant them outside so they could keep growing until they produced beans to eat. That was the expectation at least. Only they never made it. I remember yelling to Robyn to “Run for it!” but she stuck by me. My plant was already on the ground, but hers was still intact. I stood my ground and informed that bully that he couldn’t do this to us, but he did it anyway. He got hers too and then went on his way. (Btw, he eventually ended up in prison for murder!)
She and I cried all the way home. We commiserated and fumed. I don’t even remember what happened from there, only that we had each other and that made it okay. After all, that is what walking each other home was about. Not being alone. Having someone with you. Companionship and safety. Relationships grew on the way home. Connection and bonding happened. Understanding of one another. Laughter and tears shared. Fears overcome, together.
Now, we are walking our parents’ home. It’s our turn. Mom used to listen to the stories of my day, now I ‘listen’ to hers by watching her expressions. There is a bully who is taunting her. A terrible disease. We all want to run for it, but there is no running. We have to face it head on. She is afraid, as are we, but we are in it together. That is the point of walking someone home, is it not? Not being alone. Having someone with you. Companionship and safety. Relationships that are important. Connections with her no matter how hard it is. Understanding, or trying to understand, what is happening. Laughter and tears, shared.
My dad has literally been walking Mom home since they were kids. He was her beau, she was 13 and he was 16, and he held her hand as they walked. Probably carried her books, too. That is how it was done back then. It was all about just being together, with maybe a sweet awkward kiss at the door. Blushing cheeks and feet that felt lighter than air followed a walk home. It was intoxicating for young kids in love.
He still takes her hand. He tries to quell the bully, but it is like boxing the air. He understands this, but he walks with her anyway, so she won’t be alone. So, he won’t be either…not for now at least. There are sweet kisses, and she giggles just like before. They walk together, just as they always have.
We walk with him, as he walks with her. This home-walking business is more important to all of us than we realize. It affects us all. It is a group effort to travel along this road. We come to intersections and make decisions at each one of which way to go. We pass figurative haunted houses, which scare us. We fight the bully, but the bully is winning. We fume, and cry, and laugh in companionship and fellowship with one another. It is the way it is done in our family.
I know we are not the only ones on this road as we walk with my mom and dad, and Bill’s dad as well. As I write about it more regularly, I hear from my readers. You are in it too. Same road, maybe your bully is different, but it is the same journey of walking your parents home. It is hard. It is exhausting. Physically, hospital visits and doctors’ appointments are draining. Emotionally, watching disease and age weaken them is tough. We are facing bullies. Trying to stand ground that is eroding under our feet. It is the season we are in. It is important to know, you are not alone. We are all together. We are connected by this common walk. We will peel off at different points, but we will all understand and be there for the last one standing. May God have favor on all of us, as we continue walking them home.