Life at Bicycle Speed
Getting older sucks. Trust me, I am the most belligerently unhappy human on the subject. I truly thought that I would get away with being 12 forever. I mean, I am completely irresponsible, awful about keeping myself alive, and pretty sure that everyone who is not me is a robot.
And then, it happened. One day, as I was writing some bullshit about how everyone should buy a miniature cement mixer and thinking to myself “Just 300 more words and I can pretend that the electricity almost didn’t get shut off,” I did it: I grew up.
What is that magic moment where you realize that you’re officially an adult? What is the perfect storm of events that makes you face the reality that you are never EVER going to be 12 again? It goes something like this:
- Fart jokes start being less funny. Still funny, but only “golf clap” funny.
- You are too tired to climb a perfectly lovely tree.
- In the midst of completing a cartwheel, you tear your inner thigh muscles into spaghetti.
- You start saying things like, “I can’t, I have to work,” or “Actually, we probably shouldn’t light that on fire.”
- Origami cranes are only ever used to keep cranky children from shouting the F-word in church.
- You know what a 401K is and you want one more than you want X-ray vision and Wolverine blade fingers.
If any of these things has happened to you or someone you love, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but here it is: You’re an old fuddy-duddy and will probably start using terms like “fuddy-duddy” and drinking Ensure because you like it.
But, in the beautiful wisdom and grace of God, children were invented. For just as we become Ensure-swilling, mower-riding, young-whipper-snapper-cursing fogeys, our children grow up to be just the right age to remind us what it’s like to see the world for the first time. They see fairies in the trees and adventure in a puddle. It’s but for their amazing awe that we enter into the last half of our lives with only jaded darkness for company.
Of course, I might be generalizing. I’m sure there are some very happy “young-at-heart” people out there with no kids. I just know that if it wasn’t for mine, I’d just be sitting at home committing passive suicide by chocolate-covered pickles.
Today, my 7-year-old and I went for a bicycle ride. For me, it was a lot of “OHMYGOSHWATCHOUTFORCARSSTAYONTHESIDEOFTHEROADSTAYWITHME
For my daughter, it was a great and terrifying adventure.
I mean, can you imagine? The great wide world just beyond the edges of her handlebars. Cows that stare with wide, warm eyes and say “hello” as you pass. Deep trenches of green water that sound like bullfrogs and tiny fish that swirl around your ankles. Infinite tracks of black tar asphalt that turn into infinite trails of gravel that could lead maybe to the ocean, even. Maybe even to a mermaid, maybe.
Such is the wide imagination of a child. Every, every thing is filled with possibility and magic. The only limitation is the size of your muscles and your bladder. (Everyone knows that even a 7-year-old can’t make peeing one’s pants a magical experience).
And so I find myself falling back into familiar pathways – ones that I thought I had surely grown out of: Seeking out haunted and abandoned buildings and searching for treasures (despite plausible Tetanus, killer dogs, or breaking and entering charges); Racing down the center of a country road (even though I could hear in my head a phantom condemnation with every pedal stroke); Snuggling tiny kittens on a stranger’s stoop (pretending that we belonged even though we were interlopers and I couldn’t stop imagining ringworm spots instantly growing on our cheeks).
Thus, the magic formula was released and I could remember a great truth that I have known in my life – These tiny adventures can actually stop time.
Now, as I stare down the barrel of 40, I see that the tiny Adventurer in me is stronger than time. She lives forever, waiting for the adult moments to pass. She is just like my 7-year-old – completely trusting that she’ll get to go out and play again soon, because Mom say’s it’s so. Now, as both Mom and Adventurer, it is my duty to take care of the girl who only wants to see how big a splash a rock can make in a river (in addition to ensuring that the rock isn’t covered in scorpions).
My 7-year-old daughter is the perfect playmate for the Adventurer in me. In her eyes, the adult world bends and flattens into an eternal stretch of sun-colored road. All we have to do to change the universe it get on our big-girl bicycles and ride.