It’s a good ten block walk from my front door to the subway stop. Emerging into the cold, I hitch my bag, duck my chin, and begin to stride along the pavement, stretching out my legs, usually running late, trying to catch up on the time I’ve lost while muddling around in the kitchen.
There are a couple of schools by where I live. In the mornings, as I make my way, I pass an endless stream of little kids being walked to class by their parents. Bundled up in huge jackets, their arms sticking out from their sides, their joints denied mobility by the heavy clothing. Each intersection I pass has a traffic lady waiting to help them cross, friendly women in their forties and fifties who smile and say good morning as you walk by.
Today, crossing one of the streets, I heard a high pitched voice yell out exuberantly, “Good morning!”
Turning, I saw a mother walking two little kids towards the intersection. The young boy, perhaps five, had yelled his greeting excitedly from about a block away. The traffic lady laughed and called back, “Good morning!”
It had the air of a nascent ritual, a strange and exciting exchange with a stranger that the kid got excited about even as his mother dressed him for school. Then, the anticipation proving too much, besting his patience, his restraint, he called out his greeting as soon as he caught sight of her in the distance. A greeting, an interaction, that he had been eagerly awaiting since he emerged from his front door.
The traffic lady’s cheerful response seemed to hang in the chill air, and even as I turned back to continue on my way, I caught sight of the little kid’s delighted grin.