I was gardening one Saturday morning when I noticed the duo maneuvering down the street.
The boy I’d guessed was 6 or 7 years old, the girl was younger by probably a year. That they were babies out alone on this not so early day didn’t strike me as much as did the fact that the boy was trying to ride a bike with a jumpy chain. Watching as they got closer, I became more concerned for both of them; for him being on such a contraption and for her because she’s tagging along with him. Saturday morning traffic is like they’re giving away something someplace, most times. So, I offered that he should maybe walk it home rather than try to ride it, especially since the chain kept jumping off the spokes.
Now this is where it gets comical because I swear he looked at me with what was adult annoyance and said, “I know that!”, and as much as I was floored by his response, I couldn’t help but notice the look his young companion gave me. As if I didn’t have a clue, she looked up at me with soft, trusting eyes and exclaimed, “He’s in the first grade!”; like she’d be out here on the streets, this hour of the morning, with some kindergartener, who didn’t know what he was doing. She had a man, an upperclassman.
Well now I’m no more good, as the old folks used to say. I said something to the likes of, “of course you are” and watched as he stands there a moment, seeming to look me over, sizing me up. All of a sudden, he asked if I knew how to fix a bike chain. I told him I’d try.
Well, long story made short, I didn’t fix it; truth is I didn’t want to because I didn’t want him riding it, traffic an ever present thought in the back of my mind. Anyway, I watched the two of them, this resolute little man and his ride-or-die partner, walk off with him trying, determined to get at least one full 360 degree revolution out of the bike’s rear tire. It didn’t happen, of course; it’d go maybe half way before jumping from the gears. The little girl, his every present supportive companion, was always there ready to assist by holding up the machine as he made his repeated adjustments.
I’m watching them go and they hadn’t gotten more than one or two houses away before he called back and said, “You know what I think? I think I’ll walk it home”. With relief, I told him that he was the man and that I thought he was right to do so and that he had a made a good decision. He’d gotten it rolling good by then, his partner with her hand on the right handlebar, holding up her end of the load. I called out to them to go straight home and be careful crossing the streets as they walked down the block and disappeared around the corner.
As they walked away, I was somewhat touched by the whole exchange from start to finish; his initial refusal to accept advice along with the insult and petulance he showed when I told him something so obvious, not to mention that I did it in front of his young lady. I could be wrong about the relationship but that’s what it felt like.
And as for her, the whole time he and I are talking, she’s looking at him with true admiration in her eyes. You got the impression that he was someone she looked up to, was willing to go out on a limb for, so how dare I come along and act like he didn’t know what he was doing; as if she doesn’t know how to pick a good suitor and would be outside, her safety at stake, with some sucker.
I’m raking by now but my mind is still with the little duo. I thought first then that yes, it’s in our DNA surely; this need to cooperate with one another, build a life together, be supportive of each other and even love one another. And following on that need are the expectations, hopes and aspirations of the parties involved. I had seen those firsthand in the little girl’s eyes when she stood up for her friend.
She had expectations that he would keep her safe on this adventure they’d embarked on and that he ultimately knew what he was doing, had a plan with a reasonable degree of success and would follow it through to its completion. Likewise, he knew that she had those expectations. And that as much as anything was his drive for being successful on his mission, along with the fact that he needed her to see him be successful.
I remember thinking that there’s a lesson here: that they were just like any couple, out on their own for the first time or for all time, each one dependent on the other and holding up their end of that load called life, one for the other. Reflecting further, I thought that it made no difference what those broken spokes of adversity sent your way, that as long as you worked together as a team; you’d always be better able to handle them.
It’s just one of those little truths that come walking by your home on any given Saturday morning.