We walk, my age-deaf dogs and I. The street light throws my shadow ahead of us. It moves lithely along, stretched slim. In the dark, I can be young and pretty again instead of old and …handsome. My softness is gone now, like my dogs’ hearing. The three of us live in a harder world: the planes of my face sharp; the ears of my old dogs closed unwittingly to my voice, with only the lines of my sharp expressions to understand my commands.
At night the dogs and I stroll through this familiar neighborhood we have loved for twenty years, past the homes where everything has changed:
the stately mansion across the street where Nan and Jack held a grand dinner party, tables spilling onto the veranda filled with new friends to celebrate our inclusion in the neighborhood;
the brick house where retired city building inspector and widower Henry brought his love of hobby trains to life in the garage, the child-sized model train chugging round and round on tracks, the choo-choo whistle entrancing my then five year-old son;
the pink stucco on the corner where kind Judy nursed her dying husband and sent him off with dignity before she was placed into assisted living by her daughter, and where she languished just long enough for two visits before dying of sadness;
up the hill past the two tiny matching clapboard houses that Chris and Sophia bought as investments and were fortunate to sell after the real estate bubble burst in 2008, where now a quiet gay couple keeps seasonal plants on display in an old yellow wheelbarrow in the front yard;
past the cottage where the same neighbor first lived until he and his wife moved to the big house one street over, where now an agonized chain-smoking woman lives with undiagnosed physical pain and a lonely marriage, and a floppy-eared schnauzer sits out front to wait anxiously for his owner to come home;
past the ugly chipped-paint bungalow which used to have a eucalyptus tree that gave it charm but now doesn’t, and where an adorable pug named Bingo snorts hello before sniffing my bitches anal glands, ever hopeful;
on past the trim ranch house where Henry’s daughter Sheri used to live but now rents to a young childless couple with a tawny dog named Toby they sometimes tie to the orange tree in the front yard;
past the old Elliott house that now contains the new generation of Elliotts, a young couple with two boys who love to fish, boat proudly displayed in the front yard next to an old Ford pick-up;
and finally, at the dead end leading into the woods, the carriage house where Nan lived after Jack died, when her son and his family moved into the stately home that welcomed us into the neighborhood twenty years ago.
Hard reminders of time passing.
A synonym of hard is strong and of time is continuance.
We continue on strong, walking at night and remembering, my dogs and I.
German-born and American bred, Maddie Lock fell in love with words as she learned the English language. Lock has published an award-winning children's book, lamented several times about her writing obsession on Brevity Blog, and has essays published or forthcoming in Gravel, Wanderlust-Journal, the RavensPerch, and Under the Sun. She is currently working on a memoir about her German roots, using research as a great excuse to travel frequently.
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