Our Daily Walk
by Shivani Ganguly
- April 24, 2020
- 8 mins story
1. Tell us your Covid story (also welcome: songs, poems, anecdotes, reflections, or ramblings). 4-minute maximum
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Every day around 5pm we go for a walk.
I wear gray fleece lined boots or blue Birkenstocks that wrap around my big toes, depending on the weather. Sidney runs around looking for his navy rain boots on even the sunniest days. Usually we don sweatshirts, sometimes a dress or a t-shirt and sweatpants if we haven’t gotten dressed yet. Lately it’s been sunny and clear and beautiful, allowing us to spend a lot of time naked in the backyard. Hannah starts following me closely the moment I put my shoes or jacket on.
Sid insists on bringing Bear and Elmo. “Just Elmo,” I say. “Or just Bear.”
“No both. Mommy, both please. Just this time.”
“Ok fine.” I shrug. He’s an easy child, entertaining himself with play doh, trucks, digging in the backyard, drawing, and YouTube while I struggle through work calls and emails and Slack ≥÷’/;.conversations trying to accomplish something concrete. I’ll end up carrying Bear and Elmo, along with sidewalk chalk, hand sanitizer, water, and a strawberry cereal bar, in the black New Yorker tote bag I got for free with the annual subscription I treated myself to just before this all started.
I grab Hannah’s retractable leash, check to make sure we have enough poop bags, and clip it to her blue flowered collar. “Time to go, Sid.” Hannah’s leash in one hand, tote bag slung over my shoulder, I open the door and we venture outside. “Do you want to see the water or the animals today?” I ask.
“Uh, this way.” Sid starts to walk to the left, towards San Pedro Creek, which we can see rushing under the street through a chain link fence a few houses down.
“Don’t you want to see the chickens and sheep? And check if the horses are there?” To the right there's a longer walk, a mile loop that takes us next to a ranch and a 4H cluster of sheds and coops, past a community garden and through the grounds of the old Linda Mar School.
“Uh ok. Ok mommy.” Sid clambers onto the low stone pedestals ringing our front yard, balancing as he hops from one to the next, clutching Elmo in one hand and Bear in the other as pulls his long pink dress out of the way. “Hand Mommy.” He demands, holding his hand up for me to grab.
We start to move slowly down the street, waiting for Hannah to sniff until she finds a place to pee. We count cars and talk about animals. “How many eyes does a horse have?” I ask.
“Uh three. ‘
“Hmm. How many eyes do I have?” I point. “One. Two.”
"How many eyes do you have?” I ask.
“Uh one. Two.” He points at each eye.
“That’s right Sidney! Good job!”
“Good job Sidney!” He says, grinning at me.
“How may eyes do Elmo and Bear have?” I wait while he counts. “Two each! That’s right! Now, how many eyes do horses have?”
“Uh.” He thinks about it for a while. “Three?”
I laugh, and he giggles back at me. “I think you know!”
“Uh, two? Two Mommy?”
“That’s right Sid. Horses have two eyes.,”
We repeat this conversation about arms and legs, fingers and toes (or hoofs as the case my be) with horses, chickens, goats, sheep, dogs, cats, and dinosaurs as we continue to walk. We walk through the development, small houses built in the fifties in three different layouts, though many have been built up or back to add bedrooms and offices. We pass yards full of flowers and succulents, and I let Sidney pick the ones that grow like weeds — bright yellow and purple flowers with long thin petals cropping up from ice plants, sweet smelling jasmine cascading off fences, fluffy orange poppies filling gaps in landscaping. I tell him to smell them, what they are named, and how to grow them as we walk.
Our neighbors hang out in driveways or open garages, working on woodworking projects or cleaning cars. We nod and smile, keeping our social distance intact. People coming toward us usually step off the sidewalk to go around us, probably because they feel bad for me dragging a dog and a toddler around. But sometimes they just keep coming, and I step off or wait in a driveway, holding Sid’s hand tightly and telling Hannah to stay. We get a lot of greetings, questions about the dog, and “He’s so cute!” or “Looks like you got your hands full there!” We pass wind chimes and tiny windmills, dogs barking at us from behind fences, trees full of lemons and blossoms of fruit to come.
Finally we reach the top of a small hill, straight up the street about two blocks from our house. We pause and look back at the Linda Mar valley spread below us, filled with houses and trees, and the Vallemar hills on the other side with the empty expanse of the ocean in between. The bright blue sky stretches endlessly in front of us.
Hannah rests in the grass in the shade for a moment, while Sidney stops to commune with a fire hydrant. “Hello fire hydrant! How are you?” He says in a sing song voice.
“Sid, what do fire hydrants do?” I ask him.
“They put out fires! With water Mama. The hose goes here.” He pats the hydrant and I cringe, though it’s highly unlikely anyone has touched that spot in the last few days.
“Ok guys. Let’s keep going.” I tug on Hannah’s leash and she slowly gets up, her hips swaying slightly as she regains her balance. This used to be an easy walk for her, but now I sometimes have a hard time getting her to keep moving.
“Bye bye fire hydrant! See you tomorrow fire hydrant!” Sidney sings as we walk onward.
We pass an apartment building, the Sea View though there’s no way you can see the ocean from it, and walk along a path through a fence onto a backroad by the ranch. I’ve seen dead things decomposing just off of this path, though not recently, so I keep Hannah on a tight lease and tell Sidney to stay close.
On the other side of the fence, we walk on a paved road, veering to the side when the occasional car passes by. The 4H buildings come up on our right, and we stop by the chain link to see who’s out today. Five sheep wonder around their corral, baa-ing at us furiously and following the sounds of our voices if we move. Baby goats leap around. We saw them when they were just four days old, and we’ve seen them almost every day since. They’re now about a month old, still gangly and small but gaining mass quickly. And there’s a black pig. I wonder if it’s lonely without any other pigs around. Sidney counts the sheep, and the goats, and tries to count the chickens and the white turkeys, but they all look the same so it’s hard. He demands Bear and Elmo from the tote bag, and shows them the animals too.
Once we’ve had our fill of the animals, we keep going. We’re walking down a gentle incline, cypress trees lining the road on one side, the community garden on the other. Finally we get to the pasture where we sometimes see horses. It’s pretty hit or miss, since they have the whole ranch to wander around on and find good grazing spots, but we’re lucky today: the field is full of horses, ten or fifteen in all different shapes and sizes. Sidney spots them from afar. “Mommy! The horses! I’m so excited Mommy!”
I grab his hand before he can run across the street. Together we cross and stand in front of the fence. “So excited Mommy! The horses are here! There’s a white one and a brown one and a green one!" We talk about how many eyes and feet and chins and noses they have.
It’s hard to tear him away from the horses, but it’s time to head towards home. I can feel the tiredness threatening to overwhelm me. I almost give in to the temptation to sit on the ground and rest, but instead we walk up and over a path by the school.
“What’s that?” I ask Sidney, pointing towards a sign by the building doors.
“Uh, a leopard? Not a tiger. Not a kitty cat.” Linda Mar Leopards, featuring a mosaic of a leopard amongst blue and green tiles.
“That’s right Sid, good job.”
“And not a turtle.”
“That’s right.” I start to talk about how turtles are amphibians, while tigers and leopards and kitty cats are mammals.
“Yes, but horses are part of a different family.”
“Like our family? Like Grandma and Kaikai and Michael and Tara and Sidney and Mommy?”
“Sort of.” I pause, unsure how to explain the animal kingdom to a three year old.
I’m tugging on Hannah’s leash, trying to get her to keep going after another break relaxing in the grass. I look back in time to see Sidney catch his toe on a crack in the payment and fall headfirst. His head bounces against the cement, and I hear a sickening thud.
Still dragging Hannah, I rush over to him. He’s silent, and I pick him up and cradle him against me, rubbing his back frantically. He goes limp, curling into me and tucking his head in my neck. “:Are you ok Sidney? Sid, answer me!”
The wail finally breaks through, tears coming quickly. I hug him tighter, just glad he’s responsive for the moment. We sit down on the curb, and I hold him on my lap, dumping the bag next to me and rifling through it for hand sanitizer. Quickly I spray and scrub my hands and then pull back his head to look at it. His forehead above his right eye is dribbling blood. I swipe at it with my sanitized hands, and pull up a corner of my skirt to dab it. “Sh sh it’s ok baby. You’re going to be ok.” I can feel my heart speed up, but I also know he really is ok. He falls roughly ten times a day, so even though this is a little worse than usual, it’s not the end of the world.
Finally his sobs subside but he remains cuddled close. “Ok Sid. We gotta get home. You ready?”
“No Mama. No Mama. Please. Carry me.” He sobs again.
“Sid, I can’t carry you, the dog, and the bag. You’re too heavy for me baby."
I soothe him for another minute, and he finally agrees to let me set him on his feet. I wipe his cut again, see an egg starting to pop out.
We stumble home, Sidney clutching my hand but on his own feet, Hannah trailing behind to rest and sniff. Finally we reach our yard. I head to the trash to throw away the poop bags, meeting Sidney at the front door. He insists on putting in the door code.
Once we’re inside, I take him to the kitchen sink and we both wash our hands. It’s hard to get an upset toddler to do it for twenty seconds, so it’s just a quick wash with soap and warm water for him. I gather supplies — alcohol prep pads, calendula, ice. He cries when I wipe the cut, but pretty soon he’s happily ensconced on the couch with Blippi on YouTube, chocolate milk, and a cut up banana in a small green ceramic bowl.