I went for a walk in my old neighborhood recently – the one where I raised my youngest three sons. The neighborhood we moved away from 13 years ago.
I walk by the park where my sons went sledding and G-d knows what else they did – bingeing on beer, sneaking a smoke, hanging out with a female friend.
As soon as I snap a picture of the park entrance, I text it to the three of them.
Surprisingly, one of my sons immediately responds: “Oh wow. Looks like they finally removed the tree at the bottom of the hill … must have been because my idiot friend hit it when sledding.”
Emboldened that I had garnered interest, I proceed to snap pictures of their elementary school, middle school and high school as I stroll along.
Climbing the last hill heading back to my sister-in-law’s, I stop for one more photo – a picture of a bunch of teen-age boys shooting hoops in the shadow of the neighborhood water tower.
I text that one too.
Immediately a flurry of responses bombards my phone:
The old neighborhood looks great. Timeless.
Love that town.
Super nice hoops. I think the back boards and hoops we had were Soviet style – an overstock from the Gulag. Wow. Those kids are so lucky – the hoops in the park look brand new. Ours sucked.
One more text flew in right after that: Mom, sounds like you had a good walk.
I stopped short, puzzling how to answer. Was it a good walk? To them – perhaps – from their vantage point, it was. An update of the neighborhood they grew up in. A nostalgic look back at their childhood streets and avenues.
For me, it was a heart-wrenching reminder of days long gone, days I wish I had savored more.
But there were:
Math problems to check.
Lunches to pack.
Hebrew to practice.
Car pools to drive.
Bills to pay .
Whites and darks to sort .
I know I went to soccer games.
I know I watched my kids play Whiffle ball in the back yard.
I know I woke them for religious school every Sunday .
But the memories are wispy, illusive threads.
I want those days – those every day, mundane days – to be seared in my memory, indelible.
Not blurred by time.
I’ve got pictures, videos, diplomas, worn soccer and basketball jerseys, baby shoes and baby books.
But it’s not enough.
The time of active parenting is all-consuming, exhausting
And seemingly endless.
Then it’s over.
No more: beer cans in the bushes, angrily slammed doors, scraped knees, bruised hearts, lost homework, hugs and handmade birthday cards.
I wish I had paid more attention
The family who bought our house has lived there almost as long as we had.
The streets look the same,
but the people I knew are gone,
as are the children I raised.
The late July evening is filled with lingering sunlight.
I pass other walkers.
A man with his dog.
A father with his teenage daughter.
I recognize no one and no one recognizes me as I walk the very familiar streets.
The air smells the same – a mix of fuel, freshly mowed grass, wildflowers, graham crackers and sun-warmed laundry.
My sons are now dealing with their kids’ book reports assigned three weeks ago and hastily and carelessly finished the night before
Cliff Notes read instead of the assigned classic.
Hurried trips to the grocery store for batteries, a gallon of milk and a four-pack of toilet paper.
Bar and Bat Mitzvah preparations.
They are reminding their kids to wash their hands before dinner, to place napkins in their laps and chew with their mouths closed, please
Buying school supplies
Registering for fall soccer
Was it a good walk?
I guess it depends on who’s asking
And who’s answering.