The Familiar Path

By Cathy Lambert, TIWP Women’s Writing Program

Walking down that oh-so-familiar path, surrounded by familiar sounds, familiar sights and familiar smells, I hear the blue jays and woodpecker’s overhead, boat motors in the distance, the gentle rhythm of the creek whirling over the stones it’s been polishing for hundreds of years, the steady rhythmic snapping of flip flops passing.

I watch cyclists pass with a smile and a nod and walkers, with one hand holding the leash of a dog or clutching the hand of a small child, their other had wrapped around a cup of coffee or water bottle. I see accidental patterns scattered on the blacktop created by sunlight filtered through needles of the towering sugar pines surrounding us. I am passing the fence fashioned from random branches pushed into the soft earth, the bridge crossing over the creek where the required toll is a nostalgic game of Pooh Sticks, the red “Alien Hands” that push their way up through the earth reaching for someone to pull them free and discover their existence, the phone pole still remarkably embellished with the initials CG + RU, declaring a crush so long past that the CG’s own daughter is now the same age she was when she first declared her love there.

I inhale the familiar and soothing smell of loose earth and pine needles, deep breaths – in through the nose, out through the mouth. My neck loosens, my shoulders relax, the corners of my mouth curve upwards and my mind drifts backwards to giggling times with teenage friends, sharing hopes and dreams and secret crushes, walking hand in hand with my then boyfriend and now husband, hoping that this stretch of path felt as special to him as it’s always been to me. I remember pushing my children in strollers, pulling them in wagons, cycling with them on the back of my bike, then nervously pedaling behind them as they wobbled on their own trikes and bikes. I remember walking hand in hand and gently steering them out of the path of oncoming bikers and runners, stopping to pay the required toll on Pooh Stick bridge. I remember hunting for the perfect stick (not too long or thin, short and fat with no branches floats best and finds its way between the rocks), counting to three and then tossing in unison, aiming for the perfect spot where the flow is fast and there are no obstructions to trap or slow it down, running across to the other side with anticipation to see whose triumphant stick was the first to pop out from under the bridge. Even today, as almost adults, they still indulge me in a game of pooh sticks when we walk down that oh-so-familiar path and I wonder, is it as cherished a memory for them as it is for me?

This path is lined with so many memories of sweet moments in time, from my adolescence to adulthood and motherhood. I hope someday to become part of it. Sprinkled over the bridge, and into the creek to wash across to the other side and trickle into the big deep blue of Lake Tahoe.

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