A few days before Christmas 2020, a crew of men and women pulled up on the road in front of myself and, like a team of angels sent by God herself, installed and finished a six foot wide sidewalk in a few days. In doing so, they removed almost an entire lane’s worth of car space that had been the bane of my existence. Happy Birthday Baby Jesus to me!
To be honest, when I first submitted a request for the sidewalk, I thought it was going to be a matter of a Department of Transportation types showing up one day, checking out the site, an scratching their heads a bit while they said, “hmmm. I don’t know how we missed this on-block stretch of sidewalk right next to a bus stop? Curious. Well, we better send out a crew pronto to get this thing built.”
The first response I received was someone telling me that there was already a sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. To which, you would think, a simple response of, “yes, but I don’t live on that side of the street” would suffice. No.
All told, it would take another two years of this type of back and forth until the crew of angels were finally able to complete their work.
Some things that have happened since the sidewalk has been installed: I’ve had conversations with multiple people who live in my neighborhood who I had never even seen before, my children have been able to go for actual walks/ runs, I have walked off at least 8 pandemic/ pre-pandemic pounds that I really needed to lose to improve my overall health, my two year old son ran down the sidewalk shouting, “the sidewalk is good!”
In the time before the sidewalk, many neighbors walked by our house but I wasn’t able to talk to them for fear that to distract them from their task of walking to the bus stop, would mean certain death as they had to walk into oncoming traffic.
I’ve seen some people remark about how extremely isolated they have felt in the pandemic. And I pray for them. I also remember how isolated I felt pre-sidewalk: something that I didn’t realize fully (and perhaps fortunately) until I experienced life with a sidewalk. Unknown drivers would often pull up on front of our house where there was room for cars. I spent much of my time trying to figure out what these drivers were doing. Most of the time (when I could figure it out), they were just using their phones watching movies or texting, sometimes it was other things (like pulling over to urinate). Regardless, the stream of stopped, unknown cars created a kind of vague paranoia or distrust in me. I felt my family and I were out in public and had the same feeling of guardedness even though we were at home, a place where we should have been able to be unguarded. I resented that other people could just drive their car up right in front of my house on a whim as if they were just in their own living room.
The sidewalk has more or less ended this stream of cars stopping outside our house (on that side, anyway) by taking up the space where they used to pull over. And I’m grateful for that. The first time my dad came over after the sidewalk had been built, he settled into the living room and exclaimed, “it feels bigger in here!” He too had grown use to the way in which the cars crowded into my physical, mental, and emotional living space.
William Carlos Williams had it wrong. It’s not about the red wheel barrow. So much depends on the sidewalk, William. The sidewalk.