Unique Streets: 11
Miles Walked: 3.44
Street Names (italicized have been walked on another day): Baldwin Road, Ramp Street, Mifflin Road, Doerville Avenue, Overboro Street, Granger Street, W. Circle Avenue, N. Circle Avenue, E. Circle Avenue, Bluffland Street, Hillburn Street, Wheeling Street, Ganges Way, Corley Street, Calera Street.
There aren’t any more huge clumps of unexplored territory. I was very pleased when I counted today’s streets and found I was in the double-digits.
Johnny came with me on this hot and hilly walk in Hays in late July. There was a grouping of streets I’d neglected to walk the week before when I accidentally got lost in the woods. We set off on Baldwin Road and walked towards the hill on which these missing streets perched.
At first, it was flat and all was well. No complaining from my walking buddy. We walked along Streets Run and it brought back my childhood memories of playing in McCabe Run near my house in Coraopolis. My brother and I would walk the few blocks to the creek and spend hours catching salamanders and crawfish while avoiding the stinging nettle.
I could see the new memories forming behind Johnny’s eyes in real time.
I started thinking about a subject I needed to broach with him. This summer he turned 10 and in September he started 5th grade. In our district, the 5th graders go to the Junior High. All summer I had been nervous about his endearing belief in Santa Claus. Should I tell him? Should I let it go until we were both too uncomfortable to talk about it? I don’t know when I found out the truth but I do know my mom told me. I didn’t hear it from friends or figure it out on my own. I imagine my mom having the same worrying thoughts about my own enduring innocence. I had to tell him soon before his heart was crushed to smithereens by older kids who didn’t care about it. But first, we have some hills to climb. I can’t tell a kid there’s no Santa Claus and then torture him with hills.
We started up Doerville and it was immediately apparent that the Summer of 2020 was a lazy one for Johnny. He was struggling to climb and I knew he wouldn’t be able to make it the whole way. What should I do? The good news is that 2020 means facetime is a possibility. I left Johnny on a rock and climbed and climbed and climbed.
At the highest elevation, I could see the UPMC building. If you look closely you can see it in the smaller corner image above.
I walked my way around the appropriately named W. Circle, N. Circle, and E. Circle Avenues and then headed back. Quickly becoming part of the scenery, Johnny saw squirrels and chipmunks. I saw caved in streets and side of the road ditches filled with cascading water.
Finally, we reunited and headed back down. On our way up we had been too busy physically exerting ourselves to notice that there was a caved in house on the high side of the hill. Brick, tile, and other construction materials littered the hillside. As we were busy examining the artifacts we found a black rubber ball. Johnny called it Mister Baller and tossed it ahead to watch it bounce. It bounced and bounced and we ran to keep it in our sights. We ran the whole way down the hill until at the very end, it bounced out of sight.
We were both saddened that we had lost our new friend until I spotted it in the ditch on the opposite side of the street we had last seen it. How in the world had that happened? We joked about the possibilities. Maybe a bird picked it up thinking it was a tasty morsel and then dropped it here when it realized it was rubber, not chipmunk. Maybe it hit a rock and ricocheted to this spot. Maybe we entered a parallel universe and in this one, it bounced this way. Having kids means never having to fully give up fantastic thoughts.
But there comes a time when you just have to rip off the bandaid. We crossed Mifflin Road and approached some railroad tracks that ran alongside Streets Run.
Rib bones and blue jay feathers litter the ties between large rocks. Real life, not a fantasy.
“So, Johnny, I’ve been meaning to have a talk with you for a while.”
“Ok, am I in trouble?”
He could sense the serious tone and figured he must have done something wrong.
“No, no! Not in trouble at all but this might make you sad. You know Santa Claus?”
“Well, he’s not real. It’s parents who buy all of the presents and put them under the tree. Me and Daddy. We have done it all this time.”
The way he said “What?” broke my heart and I started to tear up. So did he. I explained to him that it is sad but the good news is that now he is in on the secret and he can help us this year to make it special for George. He seemed to perk up at that. I then told him that he shouldn’t mention it to his friends in case they still believed. You don’t want to be the person to break this news unless you have no choice. Trust me.
“Hey, look at this cool rock, Mom!”
Already moving on, but one more thing.
“Oh yeah, before I forget, the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are me too.”
Let’s go get some burgers and ice cream.