The kitchen window looks out over a parking lot surrounded by apartments, some of the few in this area of prosperity and history. We have rented the house for four weeks; a beautiful home, filled with mementos that reflect a well-traveled owner who possesses a love of life. Situated on a blue and white tiled kitchen island lies a guestbook containing laudatory comments from the many guests who have passed through its doors on their way to one destination or another. Mine soon to join the others.
As I stand washing dishes that are too few to run through the dishwasher, my eyes catch a glimpse of a young girl riding her bike around the parking lot as her father keeps a watchful eye for traffic. He is vigilant, reminding her to stay within the parameters of his vision. She follows his instructions, occasionally turning her head towards his direction to make sure he is watching. They both display a great sense of pride in achievement. Am I witnessing her first mastery of riding a two-wheeler? The scene brings back to mind a video of the first time May mastered bike riding and how she yelled aloud to her father, “I did it! I did it!” A glorious moment of passage for a young girl and her father; one more memory to be banked along with moments to come as a child moves from girlhood to womanhood.
I continue to watch the child ride her bike and a tremendous feeling of melancholy overcomes me. I recall the time when my father taught me to ride my bicycle. We were going down a small hill on the city block near my house. My dad had his firm grip on the back of my bike, a bike with a package grate behind the rider’s seat. I recall how I kept turning my head to make sure he was holding my bike steady as he ran along with me. At one point I turned my head and my dad was no longer holding onto the bike. I remember how his face beamed with a sense of pride, for both me, the achiever, and him, the adept teacher. Did I also yell, “I did it?” Much as I remember the day, I don’t remember my reaction, only his.
Fast forward to Jessica and Nancy, our daughters; women to the world, but forever children to us. I remember their mastery of riding a bicycle. Their road to mastery was a bit different from mine in that they had “training wheels” on their bikes. Little by little my husband would raise the height of the training wheels until our daughters felt secure enough to remove them. I recall their sense of pride as they rode up and down the sidewalk across the street from our apartment building. I wonder if they too remember their first solo rides.
As I write this, I think about how many firsts a child goes through as they wind their way towards adulthood. The list of firsts would never end, nor should it. Life is a precious gift that is constantly evolving. A meaningful life is one where we risk exposing ourselves to change and learn to adapt to that change, even during difficult times. For difficult times serve to build character and forbearance.
A little girl rode her bike and I was fortunate enough to witness her sense of pride. She will never know how her action served to bring to my mind so many rambling thoughts of treasured times past. My life intertwined with hers for a brief moment in time.