Ticket to ride

By Mir
September 6, 2004

We met up with friends and went to a local orchard and picked about thirty pounds of apples today. Then we went back to their house and made apple crisp, and applesauce, and husked corn and marinated meat and got ready for the barbeque to come later. But before we started cooking for the BBQ we went out on our friends’ circle to ride bikes.

Chickadee fell over. And fell over again. And fell over a few more times, after that. She wobbled, and crashed into a mailbox. I would let go and gravity would just reach up an invisible hand and WHOMP grab her entire bike and throw her to the ground. I kept asking if she needed a break. No; she was fine. Help me up! Again!

And somehow, finally, it clicked. And she rode. And rode. And rode some more. She must’ve made about a hundred laps around that circle today. There was some wobbling, and some decidedly ungraceful stopping, but there was an awful lot of big-girl two-wheel riding. And we all whooped and hollered and cheered and I blinked back tears, even as I giggled to behold the ramrod-straight back, the look of concentration, the stiffness of her arms (which clung to the handlebars for dear life), and the jerky steering.

It had the potential to be the sort of picture-perfect day with which I am entirely unfamiliar. It almost was.

And while it would make an amusing story if it hadn’t actually happened, the part where Monkey ran too close to her and the resultant slow motion horror film included him falling to the ground and being run over–first by the front wheel, then again by the back wheel; all while I stood frozen, too far away to help–kind of ruined it for me.

Monkey’s okay. He has an impressive hematoma on one of his legs, and some tire tracks that I may have to explain tomorrow at school, but he’s alright. I thought for sure one or both of his legs was broken. Nope. His pride was badly injured and he’s pretty banged up, but in the final analysis it was a tiny scrape on the pinky finger of his left hand that he deemed the most critical injury, so I guess he’s fine.

Chickadee just about had a nervous breakdown. She went from such pride to feeling like she’d done something horrible. It was an accident, of course; we all knew that. But she was worried that I was angry with her (I had scooped up Monkey and run back into the house in a flurry of incoherent screaming, I think) and waited anxiously for word that Monkey was okay. Once we returned with a healthy verdict, she collapsed on me in a puddle, crying and begging forgiveness. Poor little girl.

In the end, all was well. We ate dinner and went out to ride some more, and Chickadee’s newfound two-wheel glory was restored (and Monkey stayed far away from where she was riding). We came home and got everyone clean and tucked into bed, and they fell asleep right away. Their memories of today will be happy ones.

The only problem now is that I still feel like I was hit by a bus. I will lie awake in bed tonight and recount all the ways in which I screwed up today. I should’ve been able to prevent the collision. I should’ve been close enough to intervene once it happened. I should’ve been able to say something soothing to Chickadee right at first, rather than screaming like a loon and making it worse. I should’ve been able to stay calmer, comfort Monkey more, so that he wouldn’t have cried so hard he started gagging, all while I fought panic and tried to ascertain if he was badly injured. I should’ve known what to say to Chickadee afterwards to make her feel better right then.

I should’ve, I should’ve, I should’ve.

I wish I was the kind of person who has stories about things like the amazing day that my oldest learned to ride her bike without training wheels, and how it was fabulous and memorable and she was so proud and so were we and then we had ice cream. What I am is the sort of person whose story about what should’ve been an uncomplicated and happy day ended up including a huge scare which injured one child and may have ruined the day for the other one. I’m the sort of person who feels like I’m forever taking one step forward and two steps back.

Sometimes, I really dislike the sort of person I am. I wish I could find the key to making things less complicated (even if only in my mind).

So, hey, guess what! Chickadee learned to ride her bike today. Isn’t that great? Tell me it’s great. Help me distill that from the rest.


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