Day 334

Birthday Girl on the RightMy  friend — and BigWalker — Toni just turned 60. Here are her thoughts on walking, family,  friendship, and life:

I flew home to California to walk in my old footsteps. It was my 60th birthday. My parents, both 85, still live in the house where I literally took my first steps.  (As did my seven younger brothers and sisters.)  How could I not do it since I had the opportunity?

My sister Missy was able to fly in too, from Washington State. First thing, before we even ate, or unpacked our bags, we walked around the block a few times.  And then we were really home.

Isn’t it curious? That visceral sense of being back where I belong only overtook me when I was out stretching my legs.

Maybe because it was California, where it’s unAmerican not to love being outdoors. Maybe because we were always overstuffed in that house (a room of one’s own? Hah!). Maybe because my mom is a nonpareil nonstop talker (Fascinating! Still. Breaks required for personal thought.) Whatever the reason, we grew up hitting the street – always, and often.

“Wanna go around the block?”

“Which one?” was the only logical response (left, or right, at the end of Panchita Way?)

You could walk the block alone, or push one of the babies in the stroller, or ride your bikes. Mostly, we walked – as Missy and I did that first night back – in twos. It was easiest that way to establish a pace, and a level of quietude or conversation. Also, two was the best number – better than one, or four, or whatever – if some little miracle made itself known along the way: Pollywogs in the puddle! Apricots on a branch within reach! You could share the serendipity, but didn’t have to share it too much.

Back on the old block, I thought about how my walking “style” developed. And as I strode along with my sister on my 60th, I wondered if what was engrained in me had changed as a result of accompanying Laurie on Big Walks this year to honor her 50th. I took the very first official stroll with my friend last fall, when she wasn’t even yet sure she would really commit to her own Big Idea. Since then, I walked with my pal countless times, on a zillion different routes. (Remember how Laurie wrote about never going the same way twice?)

“Look, Missy! There’s the old apricot tree in that yard! Whoah. That thing looks like it’s been dead for years; kind of cool-looking all twisted up like that, though.”

Toni's Little-Girl Birthday Surprise

“Hey, Laurie, where the hell are we, anyway? Is this even New Jersey? Oh, my gosh, I’ve never seen a sunset like that!”

I don’t think my style has changed much. But I realized, now I know what I know about walking: Ritual has its rewards, so do varied venues, and surprises are for sharing. That realization was a great birthday gift from Laurie. (So glad she gave it to herself first.)