I love cities. I relish in having the opportunity to explore urban architecture, popular tourist destinations, and--if just fora little while--submerge myself into a more liberal place that seems never to sleep.
My hometown in Iowa is a little different. The majority of the population is conservative, and the main business is the sole gas station that, both east and west, is ten miles from the next. Now, know this isn't extreme--I live in a rural-suburbish town just fifteen miles from a larger town of fifty or sixty thousand, and Omaha is on the other side of the Missouri. I will agree that I have a good mix of both the hustling, never-run-out-of-things-to-do city atmosphere and the gentler, everybody-knows-everybody small town life.
One thing my beloved cities lack, however, is a place to peacefully walk with my mother in the evening... on a particularly hot, 86% humidity evening.
Not long ago, my mom, standing inside my bedroom door, asked if I wanted to go on a walk with her. I readily agreed, eager to do a bit more "bonding time" before I go back to Indiana for 'vacation.'
We left a little after eight in the evening, immediately perturbed over the amount of moisture building on our skin and arguing over whether to walk on the gravel or in town.
"I don't want to walk on the gravel," my mother said, limping down our street.
"Then we won't take it," I responded. "I just didn't know where we would be going. Let's just go down our street, up Holst, and then--"
"No. You don't want to do that."
"Mom, it's fine. We can stay in town." I crossed the street and hopped onto the pavement. "Besides, the gravel is probably still wet from all the rain."
"Not with the sunshine."
"It's not a big deal. We'll just stick to this area."
Both my mother and I paused at the end of the sidewalk, on opposite ends of the street. She was staring down 300th. I was staring at her, my hands on my hips, waiting for her to cross over to me.
"Nope." She shook her head, determinedly striking out and walking down to the gravel. I sighed, shook my head, ran back across the street, knowing that
such "arguments" between my mother and I were common. We will often disagree about something, argue for a bit, give notice to the other side, and then do something that neither one of us suggested. In this case, it was the painstaking decision of whether or not to take a stroll through town, or 'hike' out to "the pines."
The walk itself was pleasant enough, if I disregard the humidity, the dust from passing cars being blown into my facial orifices and onto my sticky skin, and the three (both relatively fresh and relatively flat) cases of roadkill. However, there were other things on 300th...things that I haven't yet noticed until now, six weeks after I started running on it.
For instance, what both my mother and I believed to be a fox hole turned out to be a skunk den. Tonight, when we heard rustling in the ditch, we turned to see a grown skunk shimmy into its home in the terrace, obviously upset that its mate was now lying dead in the middle of the road.
Another quarter of a mile down, I noticed vines growing on part of a barbed wire fence. Remembering that my uncle used to grow raspberries in his backyard, I brought the vines to the attention of my mother.
"Wow," she said. "I never noticed those. My guess is that they are either raspberries or strawberries. You can see that they have blossoms and little green berries on them."
"I would totally walk out here and collect them," I said. "Granted I would have to wash out the gravel dust."
However, what I noticed most was the sunlight. We were walking close to dusk--after 8:00--and the sun was beginning to dip lower in the horizon, casting a yellow-orange glow about. The fences seemed to shine, the water in the pond shimmered, and everything around me--the trees, the corn, the ditch weed--had a magnificent halo of sunset. I saw everything through my camera's eyes...wishing that I could find a way to capture the way the crops looked at that moment, the way the terraces' shadows stretched to the outer edges of the field. Though I wished I could pick up my aged Kodak and snap away, I knew that I would never be able to make that old barn look magnificent; that faded red gate shine with age.
I was thinking of these images, of their simple beauty, as my
mother and I walked back towards town. I thought about how little time I have left before I go back to Indiana, and how much my mother regrets allowing her baby girl to grow up. I thought about my relationship with my mother--how it has lost some of its vivacity and yet matured over the years. I melancholic-ly thought back to when I was nine, when she and I would take walks in the summer nearly every night, criss-crossing all the streets and waving at fellow "Treynorians" who sat on their porches, idly chatting.
"What are you thinking about?" I asked mom.
Her answer shook me away from my mellow thoughts. "Pie?" I asked curiously.
"And the ice cream socials."
"Okay." That was unexpected. I had been expecting her to be thinking somewhere along the same line as me, especially since we hadn't been speaking for a few minutes. So much for being sentimental. "You know that it all depends on what type of pie you're thinking of."
"Cherry, Rhubarb, and chocolate cream."
Mmm...not bad choices...just like the idea to take a walk on the gravel. If we hadn't, we wouldn't have been stung by bugs and consequently sung, "Shoo fly, don't bother me" at the tops of our lungs. We wouldn't have pretended to be Mr. Miyagi and fight off the already-deceased roadkill. Last but not least, we wouldn't have provided ourselves with a conversation that allowed us to finish each others' sentences.
And, of course, I wouldn't have had the close satisfaction of my mother's fondness for me when she, once again, stood in my doorway after the walk and said, "Thank you for going out with me. I love you."
Though my back was to her, I smiled. What did I know about sentimentality?