Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cheating on Winter

Mile Marker 310:

From my café table, I look out on the intersection of 2nd and Christian Streets.  But in my mind, I’m in France.

They have the same chairs here.  The woven wicker ones.  The beige ones trimmed in burgundy that wobble gently against the sidewalk. 

It’s harder to sit on them now.  I squat 3 or 4 times before I settle in comfortably.  I use my arms to hike my Genium around an iron table leg.  But no matter.

I’m dining outside.  In January.

There is something about this day that makes me feel like I’m cheating on the world.  That, despite all that’s happened, I somehow got the better end of the deal.  

I’m sitting with a chai latté and a sandwich in front of me, and this is what I’m thinking:  It doesn’t get better than this.

It's like I’m watching the afternoon float by in a fountain-studded marketplace in Draguignan, the first French  town I called “home.”  

I can almost see the shadows of children scampering between the tables while their parents sip cafés.  

The sunlight on the green, orange, and red legumes.  Its glimmer on the glass bottles of huile d’olive.  




In my funk last weekend, I dug up a French recipe for “Cheating-on-Winter Pea Soup.”  

I’d never tasted pea soup before.  I am not even a fan of peas.  But when my dad came to rescue me in the melting snow on Monday, we went out to buy the ingredients.

And on Tuesday night it all came together.  The first spoonful was like SLURPING SPRING!


Mile 310 was a taste of that, too.  

Really, it was nothing more than my usual jaunt up the street.  5 blocks.  20 minutes. 

Past the crossing guards, the playground, and construction sites.   Up and down those crooked sidewalks I write about so often.

I can’t say my leg pain went away.  As long as I wear my prosthesis, the irritation doesn't get better. 

Yet somehow, this sunny day gave me the strength to push past it.  At least for an hour or two.

When I reached Washington Avenue, the speedy WALK SIGNAL flashed its orange hand before I could even step off the curb.  Powered by the sun, I stepped off anyway. 

I knew where I was headed.

If you’d asked me when I left the house if I thought I could make it, I’d have told you NO.  But with one block to go, I could see my destination in the distance.

And there were tables outside!  All available!

When I told the counter clerk I'd sit out there, he smiled.  Nearby laptop tappers stopped tapping.   All eyes turned to me.   I just grinned back.

Did I not feel the cold??

A stroll in my Genium works up some HEAT.  I’d left the house wearing a hat and gloves; now I'd stuffed them into the pockets of my open jacket. 

But the first bite into my baguette – loaded with tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella – confirmed it. 

Out here at my little table, I was cheating on winter.


Truthfully, there’s another reason I have France on the brain.  This week, five families e-mailed me about exchanging homes this summer.  To each, I sent this reply:  J'avais un accident avec mon velo.  Je ne peux pas faire des plans.  

"I had an accident with my bike.  I can’t make plans."

Traveling through home exchange had become a regular part of each summer.  I'd pack light, meet new people, and navigate my way around a new part of the world – on FOOT or BIKE. 

It was always challenging, but in a simple, straightforward way.  

Now it's curved and complex, like my independence.


I sat outside for a good hour at that café on the corner of 2nd and Christian, munching on my sandwich and doing schoolwork.  Changing position every now and then to keep the sun on my right side – where I could feel it most.

And on the walk home, I was reminded how the sunlight glitters off bike helmets. 

How it makes the wooden shutters of the row houses pop against the bricks. 
  
The sun stayed high, and the sky stayed a true, rich blue.  As blue as la mer in Frejus -- where I watched fireworks, summers ago, on Bastille Day.


Like France, Philly shows its own colors.

Even on the most ordinary of paths.

When I finally got home, I’d traveled a mile.  But it felt much farther.  

A respite from winter really can’t be measured.

There is nothing quite like a sunny day in January.  

There’s nothing like a WINTER FLING.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your cafe' table with us, Rebecca!

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  2. Looking forward to traveling back to France with you again - even if it meant pretending that an afternoon in Phila was a day in France...we've imagined crazier things before:)

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  3. I'm glad you got to experience a bit of France! I will have to check out this cafe on 2nd & Christian.

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  4. YES! You will get back to France one day, I just know it. xoxoxoxoxoox

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  5. Ahh France. I'm so glad that you could channel it on a winter's day. It would be so great to be back there. I know we'll both make it back before too long!

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