At my grandmother’s assisted-living center, residents line up their walkers in the hall when they go into the dining hall for a meal. When I went to visit this week, more than a dozen black roller-walkers were up against the wall, each personalized with nick-knacks hanging from the bars.
I planned to take a day off from writing for my visit. After all, it took an hour just to get to Grandma’s place, and we had a doctor’s appointment and lunch on the agenda.
But those walkers sparked a memory, reminding me of a scene that deserves space in my book. Before I knew it, I was asking the receptionist for a pen and jotting down notes:
One night in rural Cameroon, I sat on a short stool in a dirt-floor kitchen, around a smoldering fire, sharing dinner with a family. Three teenage boys, who represented just a fraction of the large polygamous family, peppered me with questions about life in America.
“In America, do you eat corn?”
“Do children play soccer in America?”
“In America, do people ride motorcycles?”
Then the oldest in the group, 18-year-old Sylvain, threw me this curve ball:
“Is it true that in America, when someone grows old, you send them away to live with other old people?”
Thanks to Grandma’s hallway full of walkers, that scene — and my flustered, embarrassed response — is now on my to-write list. Sometimes, a day off from writing can do a writer good.