“I’ll never give up,” Ammu says, her eyes fierce. She straddles the new bike she is testing in the store, balances on her toes and tentatively pushes ahead. The bike wobbles and she stops, tries again and this time sails ahead. She brakes hard and manages not to fall. I watch from my vantage point near the display of bikes as Pattu circles the aisles, her confidence growing in leaps and bounds with each lap.
We are in the store to purchase 20” bikes for the twins.
“Amma! Amma! Can I have this paw patrol bike?” Laddu’s voice is clear and insistent as she pats the 14-inch bike lovingly. “After we are done picking out bikes for Akkas,” I say and turn my attention to the price tags. Ammu favors a hot pink bike while Pattu picks a turquoise one. One is pricier than the other. Saathi has eyes only for the children so I take it upon myself to hunt the salesperson down. I find a lady wheeling a bike and flag her down. She disappears behind double doors and reappears minutes later.
She looks up inventory and prices as I point out each bike. If they are priced lower, they do not have two bikes. If they have two then the girls don’t like it. I try different combinations before striking lucky with two-floor models. The bikes come with seven gears, are pricier than what I had come prepared to pay but we avoid assembly charges. Saathi nods approvingly and we walk out, wallet lighter and faces stretched with smiles.
The parking lot is empty and both girls try their bikes. It is bigger than the ones they had. They wobble each time they start and then soar away.
I watch their silhouettes as they drive away from me, appearing smaller and smaller. I swallow a lump that has made its way to my throat. They are taller, leaner, bigger. The changes have crept up on me. I remember the last time we went bike shopping they were a little over 3 feet. Now, they are over 4 feet.
It is in the seasonal refreshing of their wardrobe, the year over year increase in sizes. It is in the sudden interest in fashion and style. It is in the remarks on how their friends will think they are cool. It is in the outgrown slippers and shoes that line my garage. It is in all the physical markers around me that I see the passage of time.
It hits me at odd times like when I tuck the kids in bed and notice how they fill out a full-size frame. It is when I am in the kitchen stirring something and realize my older ones now hit my shoulder. It is when they sit side by side on the sofa, their faces morphing into serious adult faces that it sends a jolt through me.
I often hear other parents commiserate on how the days are long but the years are short. I nod but don’t really get the full import of it. It hits me on days like today when hot pink bikes represent all that is changing in my world. I am not quite sure I like it.