Thirteen years ago, when my husband and I moved to Memphis, we spent much of our leisure time walking the dogs through Shelby Farms Park, the largest urban park in the U.S. We would wake on Saturdays and Sundays, load the dogs in Bernard’s ancient 4Runner, and head east, where we wandered for several hours while the dogs wore themselves out. Along the way we met some interesting and fun people, mostly transplants to Memphis, some of whom became our closest friends.
I walked through both of my pregnancies at the Park, but after our daughter was born the logistics of getting a baby, a toddler, three dogs and two exhausted parents packed up and to the trails proved too much. For the next seven or eight years house projects and nap time and sports and errands always seemed more important than wasting a Saturday or Sunday strolling aimlessly through the open space.
Those three dogs gradually went on to their stations in the afterlife. Then, two and a half years ago we adopted a pair of rescued Labs who were barely well-behaved enough for a leashed walk around the block. They were joined by a stray wandering terrier mix (our karmic dog allotment set at three), whose snarly behavior rendered the entire lot unsuitable for public appearance until a few basic rules could be mastered.
Today, after a few trial runs and acceptance of the fact that the little dog must always stay home, we loaded up the now-big children and big dogs and headed to our familiar ground. We found big sticks. We puttered slowly around the lakes. We threw tennis balls and watched the dogs paddle after them. As we left we ran into one of our old friends, whom we hadn’t seen in almost 10 years. We each introduced our new dogs, and she met the children, one of whom is taller than she. She was her usual happy, vibrant self. In her eyes, we were the same as well.
On the way home I went through the list of chores that would be waiting and was surprised to hear, “I can make my bed, Mom,” and “I need to clean my room anyway.” Maybe a walk in the park was what we should have been doing all along.