Click. The last one out had to grip the black painted letter box inside the flap, as the door knocker was broken. To prevent a loud bang, it was necessary to pull gently but firmly.
Footsteps on the path. Two sets. His were brown Hushpuppies from Clery’s of O’Connell Street. I can’t remember mine, nor the sound they made. Seven paces to the gate for him. Ten or eleven for me. The latch on the gate had been off-kilter for years, and painted into a permanent position that necessitated it being left slightly open at all times.
Scraaatch.Some wire on the bottom of the gate always scraped against the surface of the concave path.
Clink.Even though the gate wouldn’t latch, closing it was important, if somewaht futile.
This was the part I looked forward to. My father lifted me up higher than his shoulders and stood me on top of the garden wall. Our evening walk was about to begin. With his right hand holding my left, we set off on this peculiar pilgrimage. It was likely the nearest thing I would ever get to a tightrope. This was a definite advantage of terraced housing. Just a few steps took me from number 10 directly onto the wall of number 8. A short rise onto the gate pillar there allowed me to travel as if in mid air, onto the other side. And so it went. From number 8 to number 6, to number 4 and the elegant expanse of number 2’s wide corner.
The next street was much longer. We chatted as we went.
What did you do at school today? Did you meet anyone you liked better than yourself?
The questions are still remembered, long after any answers I might have given are forgotten. When there was a break in the conversation we listened for sounds. Some were predictable, like the evidence of piano practice coming from the house with the blue door.
Whisht! That’s what he said when we were brought to a sudden stop. Sometimes there was a bird nesting in a bush, startled by the one who walked along the top of the walls. Sometimes a bee startled me, or a neighborhood cat that called out softly from behind a lilac bush. There was time to stop and listen, if even for a few moments, although our evening ritual had a purpose tied to a particular destination.
Ding! Ding! Ding!...........Our purpose in walking was to hear that bell mark six o’clock. The same person arrived at the belfry each evening. We stood expectantly and watched him carry out this duty without apparent effort. In a minute it was over.
Daddy, can we come back again tomorrow?
A walk can be about the destination but, of course, the passing of time teaches us that most walks are more about the journey. A thirty minute wander brings an abundance of memories that linger after decades have passed.
Where do you go walking with your little ones?