Ever since she was a wee baby, I have taken Ingrid down the block where the people who live in a house with a stone wall have placed small plastic toys for the neighborhood children to enjoy. The most notable one is the horse in the tree….and “Horse in a tree” is what we call this place.
“Ingrid,” I’ll say, “do you want to go to the horse in a tree?”
“Sure, Gams!” she will respond…and off we will go.
We have our walk routine, and we make the same stops along the way and discuss the various things. For example, en route to the horse in a tree is the “fuzzy tree”. Ingrid loves this tree. Last year, the woman who lives in the house where this tree is, cut off a small branch and gave it to Ingrid.
Half a block later, we’ll visit the horse in a tree. There is a plastic tiger there, and Ingrid makes a point of finding the perfect red leaf from a nearby bush so she can feed the tiger. She started this before she could walk, when I would push her in her pram. Now, she races ahead of me, gets there well before I do and has the tiger fed and tucked up tight with the other plastic animal friends by the time I get here.
We round the corner and three houses in, come upon a place we call the birdhouse house. This is a place that has birdhouses…dozens of them, along the rim of the roof line above the porch. We will stop there, and Ingrid will ask me which is my favorite for the day. Regardless of what I select, she will always say, “Good choice, Gams!” and then tell me her own favorite of the day.
We walk a little further, and there is a tiny cement gargoyle in the opening of another rock wall. She always feeds this creature pine needles. Of course, I go back later and remove them so that the next time we look, they will be gone and Ingrid will think that the gargoyle ate them.
We walk about a half block further down the walk and stop to talk to a gray cat that knows Ingrid by now. Ingrid gently strokes its head and speaks softly to it, with kindness in her voice. They love one another.
Next, we walk a few blocks toward the park to a kioske called, “The Giving Tree”. These things are all over Portland and typify the friendly atmosphere of this city. Ingrid will often deposit her used books there and select a couple more to take home. Sometimes, people will leave small toys or Ingrid will part with one so that other children can enjoy it. My daughter, Ingrid’s mom, is on the board of directors of and was one of the founders of a non-profit toy lending library, so Ingrid gets these values from both of us, I am proud to say.
We walk back to the street that runs parallel to our place and Ingrid always points out the plants along the way. Her favorites are the lambs ear, the Hastas and the lavender. We talk about the various stages of growth that they’re in and tell one another stories about these things. Then, we come to a small retaining wall. I used to set her up on it and hang on to her while she traversed it for the quarter block that it runs. Now, she climbs the steps herself, gets on top of the wall and races back and forth while I walk on the sidewalk beside her.
Ingrid sniffing lavender.
These little walks are our special time together, and they mean more to me than just about anything. We have established something here. She will remember these walks long after I am gone. I walked down the street this morning and took photos of the horse in the tree and all of Ingrid’s other little animal friends on the wall. For her birthday, I am having them printed onto a soft blanket for her to keep. I hope she will pass this along to her own granddaughter one day. There is nothing quite as precious as times like these. I will cherish them, and be thankful for them always.
Simple things and simple times make me happy.