THIS IS US

Mastering the Art of Walking and Looking

A child’s perspective on learning to look straight ahead

Laura Friedman Williams
Published in
5 min readDec 3, 2022

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A child walking on a sidewalk
Photo by Vanessa Serpas on Unsplash

I am five years old and walking with my mother. We are on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where we live in a boxy apartment in a building so big that there are two distinct sides, each with its own lobby and set of buzzers. I live on the right side; my two best friends live on the left side. There is a security guard who sits in the front entrance named Larry and I think he is God. I go to nursery school in a synagogue a few blocks away; whenever I hear mention of God, I think of Larry: quiet, serious, omnipotent because he decides if people should go left or right when they enter his kingdom.

We walk and my head is high, not because I am proud but because I like to see the sky. I am safe with my mother and she is all I have now that my father is dead. My hand is in hers and she guides me along the sidewalk, past the bag lady who recently threw a broken bottle that cut my friend’s neck, past the bodega to which my older sister and I are allowed to walk on our own to buy bubble gum, past the Dominican church that turns out brides in Cinderella dresses every Saturday morning.

We walk and my head is so high that I do not see potholes in the street or where the curb ends. I want to see the…

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Laura Friedman Williams
Human Parts

Author of AVAILABLE: A Very Honest Account of Life After Divorce (Boro/HarperUK June ‘21; Harper360 May ‘21). Mom of three, diehard New Yorker.