The wonderful world of Justice and Mommy aka Mary!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Right Of Passage

As a single mother I like to be as self sufficient as possible. I hate to ask for help. Most of the time I find I am able to accomplish many tasks around the house most women would ask their men to do. I hang curtain rods like a pro and can unclog a sink with ease; but, every now and then I just can’t do it alone. Luckily I belong to an amazing church, Vintage Worship Gathering. It is one of very few places I feel comfortable asking for help.

This week I had a war with Justices bike and I lost. It was time for the training wheels to come off, so I got out the pliers and gave it my best. I applied a death grip to the bolts holding the superfluous wheels in place and proceeded to twist and turn the pliers to no avail. I threw all my might into it and gave it my best; but, those darned bolts wouldn’t budge. Not even an inch. After yelling a few very un-Christian obscenities at the Batman bike, I decided to concede.

The next day I sent Albert, the unsung pastor of my church an e-mail requesting a small favor from Vintage. The removal of two training wheels. Of course he was happy to arrange for the small favor and told me to swing by band practice on Thursday, either he or Albert D. would remove the wheels. It was a load off my shoulders. I was anxious to teach Justice how to ride a two wheeler, just like my dad taught me and was hoping to spend the weekend doing so.

Thursday came and we loaded Justice’s Batman bike quite awkwardly into the Honda Civic. We drove the one and a half blocks to Vintage and entered the building to the crashing sound of drums. Albert D. was practicing on stage. It didn’t take long for him to realize we were there. He stopped playing and picked up his toolbox, which he had placed smartly on the stage. Within moments those pesky wheels were off and Al was handing them to me as if they were nothing.

I was shocked, yet not surprised at how quickly he was able to remove them. It never ceases to amaze me what the right tool and the correct measure of strength will accomplish. Of course Al was happy to be of help and even suggested we practice next to a patch of grass in order to provide a somewhat soft place to fall in the event Justice lost his balance. I was thankful for the help and suggestion.

Almost immediately we were out the door and before I could say no or wait, Justice hopped on his bike with no fear in sight. Strange I thought…..I was petrified when my dad took my training wheels off. I was terrified of falling, convinced I could not do what so many other children could do. My father reassured me, telling me I could do anything I put my mind to and with a good measure of apprehension I got on my pink Huffy bike with the assurance of my father. He promised to hold my balance on the back of the seat. He promised not to let go. I believed him. In an instant I was riding my bike up the uneven sidewalk of Byberry Road. I was doing it! I was really doing it! Then, all in an instant, I glanced back at my father who was holding me up only to find he was several feet behind me beaming from ear to ear. SHOCK, HORROR! CRASH, I hit the pavement. The tears flew from my eyes even faster than the screams could escape my gaping lips. He had let go. He didn’t keep me safe like he had promised.

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I wanted things to be different for Justice. I wanted to warn him gently that he would fall. I wanted him to know that skinning his knees or earning a bruise on his arm were all part of the process; but, it would be ok. I would hold him up; but, I would let go. I would be loving, yet honest.

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He had other plans. In the instant he jumped on the bike, my own childhood experience passed before my eyes. I watched him weeble and wobble, then I watched him get the hang of it in let than sixty seconds. I stood in awe. I had never seen anything like it. Was it possible for a child to learn to ride a two wheeler without the guidance of a mother or father? Could a little boy, my little boy, learn to keep his balance without me holding the back of his seat? Apparently the answer was yes.

For a moment my heart swelled with sadness and the same type of sorrow that covers the space left in an empty nest. My boy did not need me. My plans to do things differently had been shattered by something I had not anticipated. Unadulterated confidence. Justice wanted me there to smile at him and he wanted me there to tell him how proud I was of him; but, I was not necessary. I had become one with the superfluous wheels.

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Fortunately, I recover quickly. I packed Justice in the car and made our way back to the house. We had our last appointment with Mr. Makefield from Boys Town, so the bike riding would have to be put on hold for a bit. Luckily for Justice we had a few minutes before his arrival when we reached home and he made the best of it.

He rode his bike up and down the cement sidewalk, shaky at times and steady at others. All the time he wore a huge smile. It was so big I thought it might escape his face and travel through the air like a balloon floating in the breeze. He kept posing in front of his bike beaming with pride every time I pointed the camera at him. He wanted this day memorialized in every way. He had earned a right of passage in American life, a defining moment- the moment that would separate him from the little kids and the big kids. He could ride a two wheeler.
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posted by Mary Gerber at 9/28/2008

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