The People in Your Neighborhood
To the extent that routine is comforting, my morning walk to work is essentially the mashed potatoes of commutes.
Every day is the same. My children and I head to school. They talk about video games, and I worry about them getting mowed down by traffic. I juggle far too many things in my arms–work that I brought home with the best of intentions that lay undone in favor of Nurse Jackie, plastic bags for recycling at the grocery store, a container full of grapes–and yet I try always to have a free hand just in case one of my children feels the urge to grab it, as I know the days of such urges are numbered. We encounter the mom who’s always earlier than us, returning from older-child drop-off with her younger child. We see the funny dad from that video that went viral, looking surprisingly somber as he embarks on a solo run. Those cute dogs, the lady from preschool, the little girl with the purple rain boots, that guy who knows my dad. We get to the school and my children pause mid-conversation to kiss me goodbye. I watch them go in the building, making sure no predators are lurking nearby to snatch them, and then I buy my coffee. I vary the coffee place, but I know all the baristas. The guy at the deli that hands me my no-sugar-extra-half-and-half and deadpans, “Extra sugar.” The lady who knows that I am constantly fighting the temptation to shove a morning bun in my mouth. After getting my coffee, I keep walking to my office and see more familiar faces in the stream of traffic. A mom friend getting wheatgrass juice. A dad friend nodding sympathetically at my morning tiredness. A regular from my Weight Watchers meeting. Here, in Brownstone Brooklyn, the neighborhood of my youth and now my adulthood, I’m reminded of Bob McGrath and friends singing the many variations of “Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?”
I wonder how my neighbors think of me. If they think of me. Am I That Lawyer? The Mom of Those Twins? That Guy’s Daughter? My friend Claudia? The curly-haired lady who carries too much stuff all the time? I wonder who thinks what about me, but, ultimately, I guess I’m just happy to be a person in the neighborhood.