Over the years Pa-pa and I have clocked a lot of hours on the outdoor walking track at our local community college. It is a meandering strip of blacktop, three-quarters of a mile long, that snakes it way east and west along a state highway and then southward toward a wooded area flanked by farmland.
Until fairly recently Wells Fargo fitness stations dotted the landscape along the track. At these, the serious fitness buff could pause from his cardio workout just long enough to stretch a hamstring, execute a sit-up, or pull himself arm over arm along an overhead ladder.
After enduring thirty-some years of weather, the wooden stations finally had to be dismantled for purposes of aesthetics and safety. However, the idea of a walk punctuated by stopping-stations is alive and well in the way Beenie and I have been spending some glorious late-summer mornings.
Warm-up: We grab Bunny and buckle into the stroller. (Bunny was an Easter gift to Beenie's cousins a couple years ago. Strangely, he still lives at Googie's house, possibly because, with the slightest push on his little paw, he begins to sway, wiggle his ears, and belt out a saxophone solo that puts Kenny G to shame.)
Beenie loves Bunny and all my animated plush creatures that sing and dance and do all kinds of loud things that other people consider obnoxious and I consider charming. I have a baby chick that does a frenzied "Chicken Dance"; an Elmo in chef garb who sings a duet with a talking pizza; an Ernie that sings "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and snores; an angel bear whose pink wings flutter wildly to the tune of "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful"; and a hamster, dressed in full black and white prison regalia, who sings, "Jailhouse Rock." But I digress. Back to our walk.
Station 1: The Jack-o'-Lantern on the Porch. We tool up the driveway of a neighbor down the street to contemplate this big orange harbinger of Halloween that sits at the bottom of her front steps. Sometimes her cat watches us from the front porch, as does her dog from inside the front door glass. We make doggie and kitty sounds and say "ooooh" to acknowledge how very scary Mr. Jack-o'-Lantern is. Beenie claps his hands. This means he likes what he sees. But we can't tarry long, so on we go, strolling to a wonderfully cacophonous musical background provided by Bunny and the cicadas.
Station 2: The Tree-Trimmer. This is a skillful performer we have stopped to watch several times lately as he removes dead and broken branches at various locations along our path. We are fascinated as he rises up, up, up from his truck in a white bucket and then stops to let his chainsaw perform its magic. The saw is loud and momentarily drowns out Bunny. We leave the show and move on.
Station 3: The Swing. Moving on around the corner, we detour off our beaten path to stop at another neighbor's backyard playground. Here we take a break from the stroller long enough for Beenie to feel the rush of cool morning air through his hair as we take advantage of an open invitation to use the baby swing.
From the swing we head back toward Googie's, either via the street, where many other "stations" await us (like The Black Dog Who Always Barks at Us) or by way of a short cut through a couple of back yards. Back home, we park at the foot of Googie's steps for juice and animal crackers before going into the house.
Beenie munches and I contemplate. Our box of cookies is just about down to the crumbs. Bunny's batteries are running down. The summer is just about gone.
Cookies and batteries are easily replaced. But nothing can ever replace these special mornings I am blessed to share with my grandson. All too soon, they will pass into history. He will outgrow the stroller.
But right now the air is crisp and the cicadas' song soothing. Beenie claps his hands, and I join him in a celebration of this moment.