Learning to Ride
He’s seven, reluctant to ride independently,
most of his classmates far ahead on two wheels,
which has not been a problem for him, so he says.
No, I’m scared, he has said. No, I like the scooter better, he has said.
I will never ride a bike, he has said. Never, he repeats, for emphasis.
But there was something about Dad saying this would be the summer.
And today was the day. Dad has no worries or anxieties, really,
about his boy’s slow and reluctant approach to two-wheel independence,
only a sense of the importance of this step, of marking out
this particular summer as one in which something
great is accomplished. So Dad says, Let’s get the bike out of the garage
and remove those clunky training wheels.
Let’s practice on the grass, so if you fall, it will not hurt.
And that was enough. A few false starts, awkward
on the browned-out lawn, pedals uncompromising
and stubborn, lots of tipping, a failed attempt to lower the seat,
some awkward pokes to the groin area and some dramatic escapes
from the tumbling cycle. But really, after only about ten minutes of this,
the first independent ride, short-lived, ending in collapse, but no injuries.
And then, Dad, not wanting to let this moment escape, produces
his phone for a rare captured moment. He begins filming,
the boy mounts the saddle, Dad steadies the bike and begins to push
until the boy says, Daddy, let go–and Daddy lets go.
The boy makes a complete circle on his bike, independently,
in the yard, and you can see it on his face and hear it in his
father’s voice, a kind of triumph, a vibe of victory, the purest
kind of pride. On the boy’s part, a sheepishness, as if to admit
much ado about nothing, but an unwillingness to let go of that innocence,
the baby boy who needs the training wheels. And Dad, really,
on the verge of tears, a great emotion welling up inside,
for the accomplishment of the feat, yes, the tackling of one more
rite of passage, but of fear, too, and sadness, for the boy
who sets off and keeps on pedaling farther and farther away.