At this time of year my Mom was always really busy. She loved to give books as gifts but she couldn’t give them away unless she had read them. Partly, they were good books she wanted to ingest. But she also wanted to make sure the content was appropriate for her sister, daughter, or granddaughter. When the book The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold came out Zoë was a young teen. My Mom had bought the book to give to both of us. But after reading it she decided a story beginning with the rape and murder of a teenage girl was inappropriate. When I read it a few years later I agreed it was a brutal setup, but it clearly was an incredible work of fiction. For a teenager yet to go to high school heaven seemed to be high school and the novel examined that imagined place.
Around that time one Christmas eve after dinner, after the dishes were done, and the stress of Christmas presents being wrapped was behind me I declared it was time for a round-the-block dog walk. It had begun to snow and so my aging mother decided to join us. We headed out to the New York streets hushed by both the holiday quiet and the accumulating snow flakes. We walked along Prince Street, up MacDougal, and back along Houston. It was beautiful but I got frustrated by my Mom’s slow shuffling steps as I kept getting ahead of her. Finally, as we got to Houston Street I took her by the elbow so that I slowed down. Then together we could appreciate the beauty and the pace of the walk.
In my dreams I often return to that walk. That stretch of street is not particularly beautiful, but we are almost home and somehow I have many memories of deep conversations on that stretch of pavement. In my dreams the moment I take my Mom’s arm hoping for the next chapter in the conversation I wake up and the magic vanishes until the next dream.
Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
— Thich Nhat Hanh, from Walking Meditation, in “Call me by My True Names: Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh,” Parallax Press, 2005