The Literal View Part 2: Foot Traffic

The name of my blog was always meant to be a figurative view: my observations on small town America, the life of a middle class family, the simple things that happen around me. Now though, five weeks into self isolation with several more weeks on the horizon, my world has narrowed drastically making the literal “View from the Porch” so much more than it used to be…

The road that runs past my porch has always had a modest amount of foot traffic. Our street runs from one end of town to the other anchoring the Middle and High School three blocks to the left and, the Elementary school five blocks to the right. Consequently, backpack toting children are a regular site. In addition, we have, I suspect, more dogs than people living in town and they, with their respective owners walk past our house quiet frequently. We walk too, my family and I. My husband walks religiously, several miles a day, the rest of us more sporadicly. The walking isn’t a new thing but I’ve noticed, during the weeks we’ve been sheltering in place, some changes in the foot traffic. Maybe it stems from my own perception but I feel like the walks my neighbors are taking mean a lot more than they once did.

Back when things were “normal,” people walked past with a purposeful stride, getting in some exercise before the next task of their day. This was when the kids still had to get to soccer practice or be picked up from school, when meetings needed to be attended and friends met for dinner or a movie. Now my neighbors tend to stroll. They meander. Walks have become their tasks, their destinations, their social engagements. They wave and chat to people on porches or across the street, checking on news or how others are coping. The basic human contact, even from a distance, is the real purpose of the walks. After a particular rainy period, the traffic out front gets even more manic, like an awakening. The street fills with those anxious to feel the sky and the sun.

Another change I’ve noticed is the amount of people in each walking group. Before it was generally a single or a pair of pedestrians whereas now whole families are out, walking or biking. Those who never walked before are forced into it due to the lack of other choices.  I’ve noticed many former classmates of my children’s, now shut out of their colleges and living back at home, suddenly finding themselves out getting exercise with mom and dad. They look a bit awkward, trying to  figure out how they got back to this place, but the parents, given the unexpected gift of their young adult kids back under their roof if only for a little while are seeing some silver lining in an otherwise difficult situation. The small children, by comparison, are thrilled to have the whole family out riding bikes or going on scavenger hunts. I hope that is one trend that continues after the grown-ups return to their busy lives.

Perhaps the most signicant change I’ve noticed between myself and my neighbors as they walk past my house is the sense of comaraderie we now share. When we wave or nod to each other, it’s with the understanding that we are now part of a team experiencing something unprecidented; living through a situation we never expected. Regardless of our lives before all this started, we are now in the same place. I look at the neighbors I’ve known for years, like the families with children my daughter’s age and I know that we both understand that this required isolation is robbing our college seniors their right to a graduation ceremony or internship or even a celebratory trip somewhere, but we also realize that our children’s health and safety is a more important gift than any of those things. I wave to the parents with children from the school where I work and we understand that we need to stay positive for the young ones. We need to make this an adventure for them, keep the scarier parts at bay while still impressing upon them the importance of what we are doing.

We share this bond now, those walkers and I. We smile and wave to each other with a look that says, “We’ve got this. This will pass and when we reach the other we’ll know we did the best we could and that we did it together.”

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