We live about 30 minutes from a good-sized University
town city. There are a couple of cinemas, a shopping mall, copious cafes, pubs, and bars. And on the southeast edge of town bordering the bay is The Prom: A long stretch of wide sidewalk right along the waterfront.
No matter the weather, you will always see people out on The Prom; walking, jogging, running, sitting and pondering the meaning of life. Families, co-eds, young and old. At one end it opens up beyond a low rock wall to a huge expanse of fields, soccer pitches, and eventually a playground. At the other end is a multi-level diving board and then a smaller path continues around a golf course. Where the path splits, is a rock wall.
When we first moved here, we would drive in on nice days and either walk the prom as a family or let the girls ride their bikes as we enjoyed the fresh, salty air. I always loved the delicious schmorgasboard of people watching. A young couple lost in the romance of their budding relationship. A power-mom jogging in perfectly matching attire, perfectly quaffed hair pushing her perfectly behaved baby in a three-wheeled stroller that costs more than my car. The older couple sitting on a bench staring across the bay, entranced in quiet, but comfortable, conversation. Big, burly truck drivers sitting on the wall licking soft-serve cones like children. We’d usually stop for a coffee and a jaunt at the playground. When we would tell our friends we had been down at The Prom, without fail, they would ask us one question:
Did you kick the wall?
At first I thought maybe this was some kind of euphemism for having a drink or maybe even the Irish version of a snipe hunt. The more we got asked this question, the more our curiosity was piqued. Finally, we got someone to explain to us:
When walking the prom, when you get to the end near the golf course, you kick the rock wall. If you walk to the other end, you kick that wall as well. The ones who finally enlightened us could, however, only give us a small piece of the puzzle. They could tell us how to kick the wall, but they couldn’t tell us why. In my mind I saw this as something the die-hard locals did and that it was, well…optional.
It wasn’t until I started walking several times a week with my friend, who grew up in that part of the city, that I actually experienced it. Y’all, everyone kicks the wall!! If there’s people already there, you stop your walk/run/jog and wait. You kick, turn and continue on your way. But here’s the real kicker: (pun sort of intended)
She herself had no idea why! I wanted to know the history behind it: who was the first to do it? how did it become such common knowledge? what supposedly happens to you if you don’t kick the wall?
She had no answer to any of these questions. Neither has anyone else we’ve asked; which is a lot of people!
Even now, 3 years later, I still chuckle – out loud – every time I kick the wall. But I love it! I love that there’s this bit of tradition that everyone just sort of knows – and everyone does, without fail. It makes the large, multi-cultural, liberal university city feel like a small little village community united by such a seemingly silly thing as kicking the wall.