I am using vacation days from work this year-end and part of my loose agenda includes taking some walks around the neighborhood. My life is largely sedentary, though I do manage frequent lunchtime strolls at a mall throughout the year. The weather this evening is perfect for a T-shirt hike in Houston — 70 degrees temperature with 81% humidity and 16 mph winds from the Gulf of Mexico to our southeast. The 35-year-old subdivision where we have lived since 1982 was carefully engineered with major intersections marking quarter and half-miles. My trek today encompasses a mile-and-a-half.
Red and green decorations from Christmas still adorn many houses. Tree leaves from our December Fall dot the sidewalks and yards. A bird twitters, breaking the evening silence. A baby squirrel dashes from one tree to another. Three little girls, about five or six years old, sit on a sidewalk conversing with a doll and each other. They wave to me and say “hello.” I wave back and reflect on their innocence and vulnerability. An open garage door reveals a television with a football game in progress; the whine of a power saw pierces the air. Several elementary-age boys inspect their bicycles then, feeling invulnerable, ride boldly down the middle of the street. A mother calls to one of them not to go far because supper is nearly ready. It could have been my brothers and me 50 years ago in Athens, Alabama, or my own children 20 years ago here in Memorial Parkway subdivision. Some things never change.
This is a diverse neighborhood for which I am thankful since that reflects a breakdown of older prejudices. My next-door neighbors are Hispanic and the family beyond them are African-American. My hike today carries me past one house with a distinctly British “garden” front yard. Across the street in the next block is a yard with a Japanese landscape. Our tract homes also reveal philosophical variety. One yard has a Manger scene. Facing it across the street are characters from Winnie the Pooh. I walk past another yard sporting double decorations — first a Nativity scene, then a sign announcing “We Support President Bush and our Troops.” Is this spiritual schizophrenia or Christian realism? I wonder to myself but leave the question open.
Seasons come and go. Leaves turn from green to red to black. Children play and grow and become adults. Mothers build families and fathers build the stuff that equip them. Presidents take office and leave their offices to others. Neighborhoods age, as do those walking through them. I return home and swallow a handful of medicine and vitamins. In the mirror, a white-haired man stares back at me. Life is good, with all its problems and ills. I am thankful for so very much, including the time and the ability to take an evening walk.