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11/10/11

The Walking Man

Don't worry, prefab house kit peeps. The off grid prefab construction blog continues, after this post. Lucky you, we begin meeting with the health department and talking septic systems in the coming weeks.

But today, I want to, for my own thoughts, write about The Walking Man.

Photo: Maggie Smith

Three, four years ago, my children began their journey into school. A great opportunity, I was willing to drive across town in order for them to attend a school-within-a-school that taught not just SOLs but a European curriculum. A school, where in Richmond, Virginia, you could count over 27 nations represented in the classrooms.

So I went from a stay-at-home-yet-telecommuting-and-businesses-running-professional, whose daily work commute was ten feet, whose nursery school was blocks away, to driving down an old, lengthy road, through  neighborhoods, across an interstate, past the library, around the Costco, allllllmost to the sprawling business park to reach their special school.

Daily, I would take a late lunch break to fetch them. The seasons changed, and as I passed the same landmarks along my travels, I watched gardens grow, roses bloom, old men raking, and... The Walking Man.

First, an absentminded recognition, then interest, then disappointment when I missed him, I watched The Walking Man at all points- from the beginnings of the last neighborhoods, traversing the interstate bridge, passing the Costco, before the Costco, along the four lane highway suburban thoroughfare... I watched him like you could tell the hour of the day, or how late I would be on my arrival, by where he was within that great geographical range. It rained. The sun beat down. There was darkness, and ice. And school year after school year, through all the weather and weeks, I watched The Walking Man.

Photo: Jennifer Ellison

In my head, I pictured his life and situation. I knew there were some very inexpensive apartment complexes in those neighborhoods I passed and assumed he lived there. I marveled at the cold, and the unforgiving heat he endured as I passed... I thought about offering him rides but he was always on the opposite side of the road, going in the other direction...

Late last spring, after days of anticipation, I finally spotted The Walking Man, turned my car around, pulled over, and called him.

And politely, he doubled back to meet me.

I opened the back of the car, and pulled out the bike we bought him.

I explained how we had watched him for so long... he took the bike, the helmet, softly thanked me and said, "You didn't need to do this..." "Our pleasure...we wanted to."
And then I hopped in the car and disappeared.
In the rear mirror I saw him looking at the bike,  then awkwardly holding it and the helmet, pushing it through the wooded bumpy foot path along the road, away.

Oh how as spring drew to a close did I look for The Walking Man!

And when I saw him finally, walking, I did not let myself fall.

"You don't know what people need. Maybe he feels safer walking. Maybe he has a friend who wanted it. Maybe he sold it to someone because he needed something else."
You just don't know. I still enjoyed seeing him, when I did, which wasn't much because suddenly summer arrived and with it, the end of the school year.

This fall, I discovered a new way to school. It saved me five minutes, and I no longer passed the gardens and rose bushes and The Walking Man.

So it was completely unexpected when, as we drove along the highway suburban thoroughfare today... I looked over in my mirror behind us and saw, approaching...
"Pipsqueaks! Pipsqueaks! Look out your window!!!!"

Confused, puzzled, searching, they twisted in their seats, spying cars, empty sidewalks, rows of town homes... until they too, with recognition, spied The Walking Man... on the bike!

They wanted to shout to him, to stop him, to tell him We Bought Him That Bike.
I sharply hushed them and growled:
"Sit back. SHUSH." My tone changed. "Just enjoy watching him, and keep it in your heart. Watch him ride! And just... be happy."

And so we watched, as The Walking Man comfortably pumped and pedaled past us at the red light, then, once green, we caught up with and passed him, leaving him pedaling in the distance.

I'm now picturing and making up my own Walking Man Scenarios: maybe this summer, maybe after parking the bike in a hallway, until, one day, maybe gingerly rolling it down the stairs on a quiet day when the parking lot was mostly empty, when maybe not that many people were around... The Walking Man learned how to ride.

Thank you, Walking Man, for making our lives better when we see you, walking... or not!



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3 Comments:

At 11/10/11, 5:49 PM , Blogger Justin said...

This is wonderful :)

 
At 11/10/11, 6:05 PM , Blogger Copeland Casati said...

Seeing him riding... was... the best!

 
At 11/13/11, 2:15 PM , Anonymous Margaret Broucek said...

Lovely.

 

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