My grandmother walked everywhere in a town that was urban in a small way. Most drove. She never did. I ambled with her as son as I was able, proud to claim to my father how far we traveled by foot. We, she and I, went everywhere in that town, without a car. It opened up the world, removed the limits of her purse, of which I was never aware. Crossing town. Our walks were always so full, ending at Cookie's for an ice cream soda. Tired and contented at the end of a day we would eat a meal of pork chops, mashed potatoes and applesauce; watch reruns and old movies as the sun set. When she moved we continued to walk, east into the old neighborhood. I learned geography and topography. Demographics. We scoured the thrift stores, ate perogies and hot dogs at lunch counters, stopped at the IGA for groceries. Bought only what we could carry.

As a teenager my walking became wandering. I would go to see her. Long after I went to college she slowed down. One day she refused to take a stroll with me to the park. Later when she was doing far worse she dwelt on her refusal. Why didn't I go with you when you asked - why was I so stubborn? She had fallen in the street. A fear of falling took hold and never let go.

When our walks ended I wasn't walking much either. I had a car. Now I have no car. I walk or ride or take public transportation. I buy only what I can carry in my bag or in my arms.

I see the city more closely than if I had a car. Sometimes I walk beating the bus to my destination. Last winter I helped a woman in her 80's cross Wabash. She needed help because the lights change so fast.

 

- Julia Marsh