It was a perfect summer day when you asked me to show you how to ride your new bike.
Your sixth birthday had just passed and your mother and I had gotten you the ocean blue bike with the fat tires you'd been obsessing over for the last few months. I still remember the way your eyes brightened when we took you outside to see it. The way you jumped up and down and hugged your mother so hard she had trouble breathing. Your smile wouldn't stop beaming and it spread to us too. You turned to me then and asked me to show you how to ride. I told you I would and you got on before I could even make a move.
We took the bike to the front of the house and I held the handles with you while you pedaled. I showed you how to steer, how to pick a direction and stick with it, how to brace yourself on the rough patches of the road. You fell a lot in the beginning. You cried a lot too. But every time you did, your mother and I would swoop down on you with hugs and words of encouragement and help you get back on and riding.
So I kept teaching you until you got comfortable. And, when I thought you were ready, I gripped your hand one last time as hard I could, pushed you forward, and let you go.
You looked back at me at first and asked me if I was watching. I told you I'd always be. Then you turned around and kept pedaling. And you went so far. You went places I never dreamed of; rode your bike on paths I'd never seen. But I never left that moment when I pushed you forward and let you go. You looked back a lot and asked me if I was still there; and I always was. I don't remember when your mother joined me there but, when she did, she slid her arm around me and laid her head on my chest. She couldn't believe how far you went too.
You kept riding.
Until someone started riding with you.
Her bike was bright pink and had long auburn tassels you kept reaching over to play with. I'd never seen you so happy.
Your mother wanted to strangle her.
Your mother had the right idea, it turned out, because we saw when she kicked your bike and rode off. We saw you try to get back some control but she had kicked you really hard. So you went down. We were furious. Your mother nearly killed her but we saw you crying. You tried to hide it, but we saw. So I caught up and dusted you off. I wiped the tears from your eyes while your mother cursed about the girl. You'd never heard her talk like that and, despite the scrapes and cuts covering your hands and arms and the shattered glass on your chest from when you fell, you couldn't help but crack an amused smile.
We helped you up and got you back on your bike. You wouldn't let me push you though. You told me you knew how to ride now. A part of my heart fell when you said it. Because I knew you were right. But you gave me another rib cracking hug and you thanked me for watching you ride this whole time. I told you I always would be. You gave your mom a kiss and then pushed off and kept riding. You didn't see the tears welling in our eyes. We were so proud.
You kept riding, a little more cautious now. But you never stopped riding like you do, never stopped enjoying the ride like only you could. You went really far. And every time I thought you'd forgotten about us, you'd look back and see us standing right where I let you go and you'd smile. You knew we were watching.
You rode your bike for a long time until another girl started riding with you. Her bike was turquoise colored and had a cute basket on the front. Whenever you two were riding together and she saw you struggling to carry things, she'd offer to put them in her basket and carry it for you.
Your mother didn't want to strangle this one.
And when you found out, your smile was really broad. So you asked her if she wanted to keep riding with you. She smiled the same way your mother smiles at me and she said yes. I'd never seen you so happy.
You two rode for a really long time together and you both took each other to wonderful places. But you'd look back at us less and less the farther you rode. Your mother got annoyed at that but I just laughed and told her that we still had each other.
But then your mother had to get off her bike.
And for the first time in a long time, I fell.
I didn't know what to do. But, out of nowhere, you came back. You were crying too because you wanted to keep riding with your mother. But we knew she couldn't ride anymore. So your friend picked us up, she was crying too. I asked if you'd been watching me ride this whole time.
You told me you always would.