The after-dinner walk has become a family tradition around here. Over the summer, I waddled behind, pausing during contractions that squeezed our baby Emil in his watery world before he joined us in this one. But now, as the days grow shorter, the light fades earlier, and flashlights lead the way.
Milo dashes ahead, his footsteps quick and small, zooming him into the darkness. Oliver bounces behind, “Ayt fow meeee!!!” his bounding movement sending him up as much as forward. A nightly fall is inevitable. But we let him race ahead. He will fall. His main concern will be for the flashlight, which sometimes shuts off in its violent meeting with concrete, “Ohhhhh! Fwash-wight bwok-uhn?” He will get back up, sometimes rubbing a knee through thin pajama pants. Sometimes crying a tear or two before beginning the bounce-trot toward his big brother once again. But he moves forward. Forgets the fall.
They race ahead, stopping only when nature beckons; to stroke a toad hopping across cool grass (“he feels bumpy and soft!”), to examine a cluster of interesting mushrooms, to discover a leaf that glows like fire when placed on top of a flashlight.
Our nightly walk. I wonder if they will remember it the way I do? If they will remember it at all? I hold on to this routine, sometimes the most peaceful time of the whole day. A time when we can watch them race ahead, into their own lives, as we follow close behind.