When I was about eight years old, I often entertained irrationally idyllic beliefs in humanity’s capacity for cooperation. This manifested itself in a variety of ways, especially when I found myself among my peers. I saw no reason that a group of children couldn’t accomplish incredible feats if we banded together toward a common goal.
One cool April day, I was exploring the neighborhood with my companions when I noticed that a piece of sidewalk had been split in twain. The roughly triangular piece had been marginally elevated from its pattern in the ground, and I pieced together the events that had led to this. As I examined the craggy surface of the cement, I hypothesized aloud how the cleaving had occurred. When the snowplow had shoveled its icy loads onto this sidewalk, the overwhelming weight of the precipitation and truck had cracked the cement asunder. With the plow scraping its way indelicately across the path, it had haphazardly dislodged the broken piece.
I reflected on this awareness and decided to wholly remove the piece of cement. I was seized with an urge to see the black dirt which had been long hidden beneath this unnatural walkway. The weak spring sunlight glazed my face as I turned to my comrades and outlined my plan.
We set to work at once. The holes in our well-worn sneakers absorbed the dew of the earth’s seasonal renewal while we toiled at the extraction of the cement. Our fingertips turned red and white from strain, scrabbling at the concurrently coarse and slippery surface for leverage. Though the sidewalk piece weighed at least twice as much as me, I remained undaunted when we didn’t so much as wiggle the block.
I called a halt to our efforts so we could reflect on the trial at hand and determine an improved method of approach. The early spring had made the ground damp with melt water, but I realized that the sidewalk piece was likely stuck in place through a combination of gravity and ice as an adherent. I narrowed my eyes and balled my hands into small fists of determination.
“We are going to need a bigger boat.”
My friends and I began to knock on doors, enlisting the assistance of other children in the neighborhood. After we had assembled a team of eleven workers, we detailed the goal and plan of attack before resuming work.
“Come on men! Put your backs into it!” A comrade yelled as we strained at the cement block, sneakers slipping in the muddy melt of spring. A thin line of sweat broke across my forehead while I redoubled my efforts and pulled with all my might.
Two of the children who could not fit into the fray to get a handhold on the block found sticks and dug around the edges, seeking to force the earth to release its icy grip on our goal. A third child directed the actions of those attempting to move the sidewalk piece.
A flash of peach and russet distracted me. I heard the robin’s bright call as I lost my footing in the mud and scrapped my hand roughly across the jagged cement, leaving an unsophisticated smear of skin and blood. Undeterred, I resumed my position and shouted commands at my cohorts. I would not let this piece of rock defeat my ambitions.
Teeth clenched and eyes scrunched tightly closed in effort, we heaved the block out of its place in the pattern and onto the walkway. Cheers of elation traveled on the afternoon breeze as we celebrated our victory.
I pushed through my companions and stood in front of the magnificent hole we had created in the earth. A breeze caressed my hair as I carefully rolled up the sleeve of my coat and pushed my left hand into the rich, damp soil, savoring my conquest.
Two days later, the maintenance men removed all of the broken pieces of sidewalk and repaved the walkway, but in my heart I carried the memories of my triumph.