by Besty Harvey, MCRP '12
I was lucky growing up. My family lived in the center of a small town, so most of our amenities were within walking distance, including the middle school and high school. If we cut through the woodland behind our house it was a fifteen minute walk; twenty, if we walked on the road.
We lived right outside the one-mile cutoff for children who were allowed to be bussed, but walking was faster. I could leave at 7:20 and get to school on time. But the bus stopped at the end of our street at 7:00. That was an unconscionable trade-off. At the end of the day, walkers were dismissed first, so if I walked quickly I could get home before some of my bus-riding classmates even left school.
“Your mom and I worried about you kids,” my dad told me years later, after I had graduated from college.
Especially me. I was the only girl.
Sometimes I walked with one of my three brothers. But our varying ages and diverse after-school activities meant that I often walked alone, particularly in high school. Track and cross-country practices could end after six, which meant in the winter I would walk home in the dark.
I never felt afraid. Many other families’ children walked to school, and a few even biked. Until they were allowed to drive, every one of the fourteen children on our street walked to school most of the time. The exception was bad weather. The spring rains that drenched New Hampshire led my brothers and I to beg our dad to drop us off at school on his way to work.
But we never asked out of fear. Of the dark, of strangers, of being abducted, of getting lost. Our parents hid theirs so that we wouldn’t have any. They wanted us to have a childhood. They wanted us to discover for ourselves how to navigate in the world, to discover the beauty and the horrors, and to make mistakes. They didn’t allow us to live in a safe box where they could monitor our every movement. We couldn’t learn that way, we couldn’t grow up to be healthy, aware adults. For a box has no roads to travel, and no way to understand why you might want to walk down one in the first place.