I don’t know how old I was when I took my first steps, but I’ve been a walker ever since. As children, we walked around the big yard and through the field behind the house. We walked so frequently to the house next door where my grandparents lived, that we wore a path into the grass. We walked to the little store down the road for candy and other treats. In the summer, we walked to the Hilltop Beach.
For grades one through eight, the children in my family went to parochial school, but we rode the public school bus. It dropped us off in the morning behind the big brick building that was at that time serving as one of the town’s public junior high schools. From there, we walked to Bishop Kelley School.
We had to walk around the public school building, for we were forbidden to go inside. We went through the parking lot, past the loading dock, up the hill, and across a road. We walked down one long block on a cracked and uneven sidewalk beside a stone wall that enclosed a high yard. Then we crossed M-24 to get to our school. Looking at the route as an adult, it was only the distance of two or three city blocks. As a child, especially when it was cold out, it seemed much farther. When school got out, we reversed the trip, and waited for our bus-ride home.
As older children, on our lunch hour, we’d sometimes walked to the library, the park, or downtown. Being able to walk to town for shopping after school was a rare treat; we never noticed the distance then! Once, my friend, Linda, and I walked the length of her road, collecting donations of soap and personal care items to send to our soldiers in Vietnam. It was a warm day; on the way home, we had taken up a giggly chant for water, food, and a bathroom.
As an adult, I worked as a waitress for many years; I know servers get their steps in! That’s when I started wearing a pedometer, to keep track of the miles I walked each shift. Then, my friend, Judi, and I started walking “to the lighthouse and back” right after our shift. That was when I started thinking of myself as a walker, because it became a regular practice in my life.
When Judi took a different job, I switched to walking two miles on my own road. On days off, though, I sometimes took a longer path: south on Fox Lake Road to West Side Drive, north to the airport where West Side meets Fox Lake Road, then south back to my home. The distance was not quite seven miles, and the walk took about two hours. Soon, my friend, Donna, joined me. Having company made it more enjoyable, and we fit that walk in several times a week. I kept up with it for a while, even after Donna moved away.
Over the years, though, I’ve let other things get in the way. With other jobs, time was a constraint. Sometimes other conditions interfered: rain, cold, mosquitoes, and the short days of winter. When something is not a solid daily practice, it’s easier every day to find an excuse not to do it. I still thought of myself as a walker, but the reality wasn’t there.
Last spring, I introduced a new little dog into my household. I used that as impetus to get back to walking every single day. Most days, we walk morning and evening. The dogs are good company, and we all feel better for it. Though it’s harder when I’m away from home, I try to keep up with this daily habit. After all, I am a walker!