It is a bright, sunny day. All through the day, I alternate work, kitchen and online studies with the kids. There is a point towards the end of the workday when I throw in the towel, order the kids off their iPad, their IXL sessions be damned and head out for a bit of fresh air and respite from everything.
If we are out with the kids, the rest of the neighborhood is out too. We cross each other at safe intervals, our waves half-hearted. I want to stop and chat but I imagine each of us being vectors, our words dusting the air with maroon spiked virus particles. The air is blowing. I imagine the invisible attackers floating away into oblivion.
I walk, nay, run with my littlest one as her stubby legs pump hard urging her small bike with training wheels to cross the slight uphill terrain. The older two scooter along, pausing as they cross us to encourage their little sister to give it her all. We do a few rounds and stop at our driveway for a break. The little girl next door takes her mom’s bike out for a spin.
My oldest has a glint in her eye.
“Can I try your bike?”
She sounds casual but I feel the weight of her words. I enthusiastically agree that she should try. I help clear the way and dust the cobwebs of my old gold and maroon bike without hand brakes. The wheels are flat. She tries to get on and her feet barely skims the concrete of our garage.
I feel so many things.
I get the manual air pump and work until both wheels are plump. I insist she wears her helmet. She wobbles and then she is off. She starts slow. She circles our driveway. She ventures into the road outside our home where cars are rare. She does a couple of rounds and braves a full round around the oval.
I watch, the sun hitting my tinted glasses. I watch with a combination of awe, fright, happiness and something akin to sorrow. My newly minted eleven-year-old is now riding a full-size woman’s bike. Her hair glows, rising and falling with the mild wind as she floats past me. In my mind, she is still the little girl we shopped for princess bikes with. The princess bikes lie de-tasseled in the corner of our garage. Their replacements, the ones with the hot pink wheels and seven gears lie next to them.
Just when I think I can’t get over this, the little one comes out wheeling her older sister’s metal scooter, the ones that require more dexterity than her wide-bottomed princess one.
“I can do this! I can do this!” she squeals as she sails past me.
In one day, my world is upended. All of my girls’ childhood is flying past. They are women. They are adults. They own this world.
I head back inside cautioning the three to stay on the driveway. They agree reluctantly and I retire to my oasis. The study, where words capture, in virtual amber, all the things I have trouble articulating.
Life does go on.