Monday, November 26, 2018: Earlier this morning on my walk, I run into an elder woman I’ve seen twice before, her skin is the color of perfectly browned drop biscuit peaks, and her face is mapped with lines that tell the story of her life to anyone willing to stop and silently listen, read.

Each time, our paths cross in roughly the same spot, in front of a newly planned community a five minute walk from my house. Every time we meet, she has stepped down off the sidewalk to give deference to me. Me! Lowly whippersnapper by comparison and yet. The second time I stopped and chatted, she has virtually no English but I learned she’s from India. This morning, same thing:  as we approach each other she steps down into the street fingering her prayer beads, her thick-soled sneakers and cable knit sweater an anachronism against the long black dress and striped apron she wears.

I stop again. Clasp my hands together as if in prayer and bow my head to her. She does the same. And then I step aside gesturing to her with both hands toward the sidewalk. She hesitates, her smile widening before she steps up onto the sidewalk, still fingering her beads, and walks on.

What is the prayer she utters walking down this suburban street in Northern California?  Who is her family? Maybe a son or daughter bought one of the developer houses and moved her from her home in India? Does she have grands who don’t really understand grandma but are being taught to respect her and her deeply ensconced ways. The ones that caused her involuntary muscles to guide or down off the sidewalk when anyone else passes.

I walk on, not surprised by the tears in my throat which moved me to share this with you.

Oddly enough,
a few minutes later, after spending the rest of my walk dictating this text, our paths cross again—and again in front of the developer houses.  And this time I step down before she can. She smiles, steps down, too, so we briefly have dueling deference until she finally steps back up. I join her and we pantomime another conversation. She says again “India”  and “no English” . I point to her prayer beads, indicating how beautiful they are. With their hands clasped she points up to the sky. Then she taps her knee and I tap my knee and we agree that walking is good for us. We part ways.

This time I don’t have tears stuck in my throat only a small prayer that I could speak her language/dialect so that next time we could actually chat.