Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bike People

We're a bike family. Ben works for a bike company and, ergo, we're all on wheels.

I wasn't always this way. My parents were busy people and so finally it was my brother that taught me to ride at the late age of eight. But we lived way up on a mountain so the actual riding I did, once I could, was minimal. Hence, when I met Ben, mountain bike champion of the world, I demurred for many years before he finally got me on a bike. Once Mae learned, it was clear that I needed to get off my ass and join her in the great outdoors.

We've now had a number of years on two wheels and the kids and I have our whole set-up. Mae and Lana are each on their own bikes and I have a really excellent utility bike for Mihiretu and I. A utility bike, for you non-bike people, is the station wagon of bicycles. It has a long board over the back tire on which you can stash groceries, children and other paraphernalia.

The weather has finally turned and we're riding bikes to school again. After ten minutes of harassing children into socks, shoes, jackets and backpacks, we're on our way by 7:45. The contrast between the high stress of getting out the door and on the bikes and the exhilaration of those first pedal strokes as we exit the cul-de-sac is breathtaking. It's like that last moment of Mae's birth, pushing out that watermelon of a baby and the first moment of holding her in my arms. Hell to heaven.

Our first stop is Lana's school. She goes to the local public school, a half a mile away. And so, on that first leg of the journey, I am watching the road in front of me and the girls behind me. I've learned not to let Lana ride in front because she spends the entire time with her head cranked back in my direction, trying to chat. Lana, like me, is not quite as natural on the bike as the rest of the family. She wobbles, she gets distracted and slows down, falling far behind, then gets competitive and speeds ahead, a bit heedless of traffic stops and automobiles. But she, like me, is proud of her ability to get herself from point A to point B without a car. She arrives at school flushed with success.

Once she's safely deposited, we're on to Mae and Mihiretu's school. They attend a private Montessori school. Long story, but suffice it to say that Mae started at the public school and was so traumatized by her teacher, we had to rescue her.

The ride to the Montessori school is a good mile and a half. Mihiretu spends the majority of that time waving to passersby and shouting, "Hello?" He is running for mayor, apparently. It's rare he gets a wave back. I think people just don't know what to make of him. And so, after almost every attempted greeting, he says, "Mama, guy no wave me." To which I say, "Darn it!" To which he says, "Darn id!"

I encourage him to keep waving because what's life besides making a friendly gesture at the world and hoping for one in return? And so, for miles, he waves, he yells, he says "Darn id!" and rarely, he makes a connection. When that happens, it's very satisfying, all the way around.

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