The Walk and Talk

We moved into our new house, and recently, on a warm spring evening, Scout and I set off.

The menfolk were at the old house, gathering up enough stuff to last us through the night, and in the squalor of our partially unpacked house, I couldn’t find the leash to take Bonnie along with us, so it was just me and my daughter, and though my shoulders ached under the Ergo from a week of packing and lifting and moving, the walk around our new neighborhood with my daughter felt right.

Long before I was introduced to the Aaron Sorkin walk and talk, I was an accomplished walk-talker with my mother. When I was seven, we moved from out in the country where we lived beside a busy highway to a sleepy outer suburb of a bigger city. And I don’t remember how or when it started — maybe when my mom started doing Weight Watchers? — but somewhere along the line, we started taking walks together.

Because the origins are hazy, I don’t remember why it was nearly always just me and my mom, and not my sister. In the same way, I don’t know if Pippin will ever be my walking buddy; he’s so focused that right now, at least, he seems always to prefer hurtling or bike riding or playground-clambering to anything as mundane and poky as a stroll. (And then he has the gall to complain his legs hurt as soon as I do convince him to go on a walk.) Maybe Scout won’t be a walker, either — but I hope so.

Over two decades of walking with this lady, and this is the only photo I can find from our walks. (Also, that walking stick goes with us everywhere and has warded off many sketchy dogs.)

Just as they say that the car is an excellent place to have a conversation with your child — something about the lack of eye contact paired with sheer proximity — so my mom found, I guess, that walking was a great time to have conversations with me. I breathlessly related, in painstakingly dull detail, no doubt, the plot lines of the books I was reading and the little dramas of my schoolyard life. She told me about work frustrations, and we worked out elaborate mythologies for the neighborhood: its white squirrels, its odd dogs, that perpetually marshy corner. She’d knick my knuckles with her engagement ring as she swung her arms, and I’d get all huffy about it.

We walked through my school days, and when I was back from college in those still, oppressively hot summers. Now, when we’re visiting, we walk still, usually with a stroller or Ergo or both. We make the same loops we always did, sometimes with me in wheezy postpartum shape, sometimes with me in the lead. We talk about the neighbors who have moved, what I’ve heard the kids I grew up with are doing now, whether we like new landscaping choices. My parents have lived in the same house since 1993, but it’s different now from how I remember it: the yard sunnier after those trees had to be taken out, the garden more lush now that my parents have more time to devote to it. Sitting on the porch glider after a sweaty Florida walk, though, sipping water from a glass slick with condensation, it all feels about the same.

I want that for my own daughter, too.