It’s National Walk to School Day, which we celebrated in the same way we do every other weekday: walking to school. It’s one of the many upsides of living in a mixed-use community (downsides include tiny yards). Yesterday, for example, I took the girls to school, went to work, taught two classes, went to the grocery (well, actually, I didn’t, but I could have), picked the girls up, dropped them off at a play date, and retrieved them from the play date. And I did it all on foot.
The walk to school is a special part of the day. In the morning, it’s a reset button after the frenzy of getting out the door with the children dressed, brushed, and primed for school, snack, and lunch. We greet our neighbors and assess whether we’re late—or they are—by the order in which we see them. We chat with the wonderful crossing guard, who always has a kind word and who has a UNC pom-pom in his hand on the day after any Tar Heels victory. We see who’s learned to ride a bike, who has a poster or project due. We enjoy the impromptu dog parade. As the girls walk in to school, I turn around to approach my day, but I feel happily blank as I walk back home.
In the afternoon, the walk is a welcome break from time at my desk. While I often feel chilly on the walk down, having spent an hour or two digesting lunch and sitting still, the uphill walk home warms me up for an afternoon of parenting. The dog reminds me when it’s time to leave; her internal alarm is set to 2:21 p.m.
The walk is more than a convenience, a necessity, or a habit. It’s a community experience, and it’s a ritual. Its structure remains the same, with minor variations based on weather. It is imbued with meaning beyond the commute. It effects a change in us. Or in me, at least, every day.