At Home With Vivian: A Walk in Winter

It’s been many years since I’ve spent time with a toddler. I used to remark that watching children at play was a thousand times more entertaining than any television show. It’s good to know that I’m still right.

Jeff, our daughter Marion and I and took our eighteen month old granddaughter Betsy out for a morning walk last week while Betsy’s parents packed their suitcases. Our son and his family were heading home to Nebraska that afternoon after a joyous early Roubal Christmas celebration at Marion’s home in Mariposa.

We strolled with Betsy through a wooded park in downtown Mariposa. The sky was overcast from a recent rain. Colorful leaves floated down from the canopy of trees, settling down upon the damp ground. As we walked along the paved path I watched ahead for puddles. Betsy has found joy in jumping in any form of water, especially if she is in clean clothes. We came to a wooden bridge and stopped to look over the edge, listening to the shallow creek as it tumbled and splashed over stones and broken tree limbs. Betsy pointed up and giggled as a bird flew overhead. She squatted down to examine a fallen yellow leaf, and then picked it up by the stem. The leaf was huge in her tiny hand. She waved her new found joy around in the air, smiling as we continued our walk. Betsy is quite a conversationalist. She told her grandpa a wonderful story as they walked along. I wish I understood “toddler”. It sounded like a great tale.

Marion Roubal with 18 month old Betsy
Marion Roubal with 18 month old Betsy

With her Aunt Marion’s help, Betsy discovered she could pick up more than one leaf. She stopped every few steps. First it was to pick up a brown leaf and then a tan leaf with brown mottled designs. Sometimes she traded one leaf in for another one or two. It wasn’t long before she had both hands full of leaves.

As I watched her tiny form squat, examine and choose her leaves, I wondered to myself – When was the last time I stopped to truly appreciated the beauty of a fallen leaf? Betsy’s little fingers examining every rib and curl made me view leaves anew. When was the last time I listened to a bird song? When was the last time I stood on a bridge and dropped a leaf into the water and raced to the other side to see it float by? When was your last time? Like taking just one small bite of a cookie, it made me long for more. Taking lessons from Betsy, I made an effort to be more observant on my walks this week.

When my husband goes out the door at six in the morning, I go out right behind him no matter what the weather. When we lived in Germany my neighbor told me that there is no bad weather – only bad dressing. Luckily, it’s usually pretty dry early in the day.

I especially enjoy walking this time of year in our California winter wonderland. We may not have dazzling white snow to brag about, but then again, we don’t have to shovel it either. What we do have is a little frost on the ground sometimes, and a fabulous assortment of leaves. Red ones, brown ones, fat ones and thin ones. But you have to watch out for the wet ones. They can be slippery little devils.

Did you know that raccoons, possum, fox, turkeys, ducks, and deer travel our streets near downtown Martinez early in the morning? In the decade since I began my morning treks I’ve seen them all. This week I stopped to watch a possum scurry across the street and into my neighbor’s bushes. My, what a funny little jiggle it had in its scamper! It made me laugh to see it run so.

It’s dark now in the mornings, but we have street lights and dazzling Christmas lights to light the way. Some winter mornings, like a moth to a flame, I am drawn to Main Street. I think it’s the amazing smell of fresh coffee that draws me in. Stars, Barrelista and Starbucks coffee shops are brightly lit and inviting by 6:30 am. Downtown is well lit with cheerful strings of white bulbs. It is quiet, but by no means is it empty. I’m not alone when I walk so early in the morning. Sometimes I run into my friends who walk as a group each morning. I’ve also met many a wonderful dog on my trek. Oh, and some nice dog walkers too.

Main Street is a very cheerful place to walk, especially this month. Taking a note from Betsy’s ability to observe and take delight in all she sees, I stopped to enjoy the many window displays this week (although my Fitbit tells me I dawdled too much!).

In the windows of Attic Child a choir boy sings while vintage elves work hard at restoring antique furniture. I wonder if those elves work behind the scenes all year?

Santa majestically stands in a field of poinsettias in the Smoke Shop window. Near by, a big red bow hangs above the new Rose’s Barber Shop door while a fluffy Christmas tree and vintage looking chairs fill the windows. Their barber pole reminds me of a candy cane. Yum!

There’s a partially opened package in the window of the new Retro Now vintage shop. It’s driving me nuts. What is it?!

The White Rabbit is glorious all year round but I love how shiny it is now with the strands of blue and white lights. I always find something to buy when I traipse inside. Good thing it doesn’t open before dawn.

Have you seen the new Citrus Salon? It’s so glamourous with the high ceilings, bare brick walls and twinkling Christmas trees lights. When the young woman inside setting up for the day smiles and waves to me as I walk by? Well, it just makes my day.

A special call out to the Contra Costa News Register! The jolly little village in the window is only the beginning. When I peer through their windows I can see all the way to the back and every inch is covered in joy. It looks like Santa’s elves live there! How can you not be happy working in a place like that?

Lavender Moon Interiors is not lavender, but it is lit up like the moon, shiny and bright in blue and white.

Bad Girls Antiques has a Santa holding an inventory of who’s naughty and nice. I didn’t see my name on his list. I hope he doesn’t forget me.

The lights on Santa’s house in the plaza were dark. He’s probably pretty busy up there at the North Pole about now. I think I will ask him for more lights to go on the City Christmas tree next year.

Isn’t it funny how we get so busy living life that we forget to appreciate it? I’m so glad I got to spend time with our granddaughter Betsy. A new life has refreshed this old one.

Be like Betsy. Go for a walk. Don’t count your steps or log your miles. Stop in the middle of the path and look up, down and side to side. Isn’t life grand?

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