What I learned from the Ada Dawson School of Walking

I walk fast. I always have. Even when overweight, I could propel my poundage forward at amazing speed. I was often surprised that more pounds did not shake loose from my frame and lie there distraught with issues of abandonment in the gutter. Those lucky enough to walk beside me often comment about how fast I walk (between puffs and gasps and little spurts which resemble a slow jog to keep up). I tell them that I learned it all from the Ada Dawson School of Walking.

Who is this Ada Dawson, they ask (when they have got their breath back). She was my mother, I tell them. She was even in a hurry to die. I spent a lot of my later middle life realising that I am very much like her. I often have to take stock and tell myself that I don’t have to speed through everything. I can relax and smell the roses. Even this morning, when out for a brisk walk with a stop at a coffee shop for a skinny latte and a perusal of the morning paper, I realised that I accomplished the coffee drinking and paper reading in 10 minutes flat. And then I felt like I was dawdling.

Why do I rush? And where am I rushing too? What is the hurry, and will getting there fast make any difference to my life in general? I envy those folk who can drape themselves on couches for long periods of time or doze in armchairs in the afternoon. Instead, I am racked with guilt that I am wasting time. I remember my mother when she used to rush to places. She often wore cheap plastic soled shoes which would slide out from under her and leave her sitting on her backside in the middle of the footpath. I, a surly teenager would not acknowledge her as she was just ‘so’ embarrassing. I would not help her up. My father would often tell her to slow down. But she just couldn’t. And so she didn’t. The irony is that now I have had several falls because of rushing, and I can almost hear her saying, “See how hard it is to slow down, my dear?”

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When she grew old, she hated the enforced curtailment of her walking freedom. The Ada Dawson School of Walking left its indelible genetic residue in her daughters. My sister and I both walk very quickly indeed. In fact, when on a city street and within sniffing distance of a good coffee shop, we almost build up a head of steam as we forge our way forward. My father used to say that Mum was like Boadicea in her chariot. I have a mental picture of mum in a crimplene frock, white hat, handbag and shoes with metal spears emanating from her shins and the pram as she pushed her way through crowded city streets – surprised and tardy shoppers examining their bloodied legs in amazement as this paragon of pace moved at the speed of greased lightning.

I am sad now when I think of Mum. She died over ten years ago, and yes, she was even in a hurry to die. It took too long, she thought, this lying around in a hospital bed looking at a sea of concerned faces gazing back at her. “How long is this going to take?” she would question me crossly. I would think to myself that it wasn’t quite as easy as booking a trip on a plane. It was only as she slipped into that late afternoon dusk of nearly dying that she finally relaxed. As she slowly relinquished her hold on life the strain and tension left her body. And so, the founding member of the Ada Dawson School of Walking left this world.

I remembered her this morning as I sped along the pavement in my bouncy Asics gel shoes. Her technique and her tenacious stride. The poetry of economical movement as her elbows sawed through the air. I met my daughter for a coffee (well it was for my birthday) and I realised that her stride reminded me of my mother. I smiled as I thought of mum on a cloud in heaven having done her early morning circuit. I think she would have smiled too.

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Are you a fast walker? What family traits did you pick up? Do you ever remind yourself of your parent? Tell us below.

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