Monday, October 20, 2014

Scenes of neighborhood city life

The elderly woman walks down the sidewalk, dog leash in hand, ancient dog ten paces behind her (not on the leash). The dog stops, arthritis having halted his progress.

His owner pauses, kicks her leg out (why?) and tosses a dog treat on the ground. The dog ambles forward. Before he gets to the treat the old woman leans over and retrieves it, then tosses it ten feet ahead. The two mosey on, in perpetual but very slow motion.

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I go out to buy a gallon of milk -- a daily event -- and run into three people I know, in succession. We chat about life: one has a troubled teen, one is involved in coordinating a community event, one lives in my building. I get to the store and wait in line. My cashier is Sally, who lives in my building. She tells me how her grandchildren are doing, and asks after my kids. She is pleased that Big Guy is enjoying college, and happy to hear that Snuggler is performing in Romeo & Juliet.

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At church on Sunday the place is full. I look around and idly wonder (yes, I should be paying attention to other things) which nationalities are represented today. I know there are many Latinos and Fhilipinos, plus a few Italian nuns. A few families are present; when we first started going to the chapel, we were the only people with kids. New York is different that way: it's a town full of singles and couples.

The first time I went to a bat mitzvah (a common enough event here), what surprised me most was realizing that disparate people in my life knew one another through synagogue. It had never occurred to me that my good friend from the neighborhood association was friends with the young mom I knew from the playground. I was delighted to discover that the world is connected in ways I never imagined.

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A old woman shuffles, bent in half over her walker. Her sheitl is bent askew, and every third shuffle she pauses to tilt her head sideways to see where she's going. I wonder what life is like with osteoporosis so severe that one cannot ever straighten up, when your view of the world is limited to floors and sidewalks. I am somewhat in awe of her courage, her determination to get out and to the store. It is probably a three-hour affair to buy groceries, maybe more. She is always alone. I hope that when I am her age I have that amount of raw determination. She is an inspiration.



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