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Where the Sidewalk Ends, Literally

January 3rd, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized

imagesI know Shel Silverstein wasn’t being literal about “where the sidewalk ends and before the street begins”. The poem was not about an actual sidewalk, but about prelapsarian childminds and such.

But here in the town that Silverstein adopted as his own, Key West, I have a literal gripe. This is the town where the sidewalk actually ends. That is, sidewalks start and end, sometimes on the same block. Plenty of blocks don’t have any at all. What sidewalks there are here are likely cracked and buckled from the roots of a tree.

This is all a little hard because these days, kids come with wheels: strollers, wagons, trikes. All those breaks in the sidewalk confound the stroller-pushing parent. All the streets with no sidewalks are a little worse even because of the need then to push the kid in the street. Some of Obama’s stimulus money has built new sidewalks here, with proper storm drains, but there’s still a lot left to work on.

Of course I would find this distressing. I’m raising my kids in New York, so I’m addicted to sidewalks. In the Upper West Side, they are often wide stroller-highways unobstructed by bumps or blemishes. You can push a kid as fast as you need to, which often seems to be very fast indeed. Kids there have playdates to get to promptly, dance or baby music appreciation classes that start exactly at the appointed hour.

And so, on second thought, I think that maybe I hate sidewalks. Let the kids bump and jiggle over the gaps, or let them make their own way, stopping to admire the little weed-flowers that grow in between the concrete. They are almost completely unscheduled in their time in Key West, and happily so. So if it takes a little bit longer to get from here to there, I welcome it.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends

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