28 February 2011

we go to church every morning

The couple walk toward me, he with a cane, she in a brick-red wool coat.

They move slowly and not just because they are old. It is icy; it is treacherous.

But even on those days when the snow still covered the sidewalks—in the days just after the blizzard when shoveling felt like an archaeological expedition, layer after layer of snow and story—

even on those snowy days, I saw this couple.

He with a cane, she in a brick-red wool coat.

If I time my morning walk just right, then I will see them. Ten to eight, slowly, grandly stepping their way down Hillside.

I do not see them every morning because I do not always time it right. Sometimes the coffee doesn't get started right away. Sometimes I can't find the gloves I want to wear. Sometimes I don't get up when the alarm first goes off and so I chip away at my morning routine and my morning walk is whittled down.

Sometimes I walk slowly, too, hoping to time it just right to see them.

Walking slowly is not hard to do, once you get the hang of it. When you spend so much of your time walking with purpose:

to the car
to the office
to the post office
to church

when walking is simply a mode of transportation, a here-to-there thing, it can be hard to slow down.

But if you're in the habit of a morning walk—and though I'm not in the habit of handing out advice, I do suggest you get in the morning walk habit—then you want to slow down.

You slow down to notice the pink clouds behind City Hall and the ice tricking your eye into seeing a world made of glass {a very brittle world, indeed}. You step slowly to hear the crunch of snow, and you think of a time when the ground will not crunch beneath you. When it will be warm and you will not have to find your gloves in the early morning in order to take your walk.

They are in the habit of a morning walk. He with a cane, she in a brick-red wool coat. I want to see them every day because of the way she tucks her hand into the crook of his elbow. She's holding on to him, and you get the idea that he's been offering her his arm since they were 16. Even though now she's supporting him more than he's supporting her, he offers his arm and off they go.

I stopped them the other morning with a smile.

"Where are you going every morning?" I'd made up enough stories for them, and now I wanted the truth.

He grew up in Brooklyn; she grew up on the Upper East Side.
He fought in the D-Day invasion, where he got his limp.
They got married when they were 17, contrary to her parents' wishes.
He buys her tulips every chance he can.

But now truth: Where are you going every morning?

"To church. We go to church every morning," he said, and all three of us looked down the block to St. Petronille's, the big Catholic church with the school attached to it.

"And then after church, we go for breakfast," she speaks before his sentence is done. "I told him that for Christmas, I wanted to go out to eat more, and now we go to the bagel shop every day day. After church, of course"

"Of course," I said, wanting their routine, their familiarity, their years of knowing each other.

"And where are you going every morning?" he asked, clomping his cane up and down a bit.

"Just around. Just for a walk to begin the day before I go to work."

"Oh, how good for you! What a routine!" she said, and I swear she winked at me from behind her big glasses that draw attention to her eyes.

We all have our routines, our ways of appreciating these days we've been given. It is good to be reminded that there's pleasure in your routine.

And with that, they kept on their walk to church, he with a cane, she in a brick-red wool coat.


  1. My heart melts with this. I absolutely am inspired.

  2. Thanks, Sommer. I feel pretty inspired myself by this old couple :)



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