We congratulate ourselves for choosing to live in Maple Bay. Our eldest daughter, Eilish, does not.
This weekend we were at Miracle Beach Provincial Park, where the roads are flat and mostly paved. For the first time, Eilish rode a two-wheeler with no training wheels.
“Did you see that Mommy?” she said after pedaling two whole revolutions without tipping over. “I’m doing it!” she screamed as she rode away, “And I’m not even falling off!”
She rode away from me, farther than she’s ever let herself go, beyond soothing distance — all on her own. And all I could do was watch. I was overcome with joy for her and my eyes filled with tears. I looked at the mister; he teared up too. As my dad said, it’s a rite of passage, up there with her first steps. Bicycles are to kids what a bus ticket is to a tourist: freedom to roam at will.
But a few minutes later, as she whooshed down a very small-grade hill towards me, all I pictured was her perfect, soft, bare shoulders hitting the asphalt at high speed while riding a pink and white weapon of mass destruction. My unblemished child would be forever scarred, physically and emotionally. It’s lucky the inventor of the bicycle is already dead or I’d have seen to it myself.
Eilish rode her bike the whole weekend without a fall. She cried at bedtime because she wanted to ride more; she woke at dawn and hopped on her bike in her pajamas. Met some “big girl” friends, with whom she went on her first explore away from us, away from our protection. She has never smiled brighter, nor has she eaten so much.
All she talked about on the drive home was going for a bike ride in Maple Bay. That night, we walked up to the park where she rode around the tennis courts, but that wasn’t good enough. She wanted to ride on the road. From the park to our house it’s mostly down hill, with very few flat patches. She walked the bike most of the way down, the pedal hitting her shin every second step. By the time we got to the rowing club, she was as deflated as day-old party balloon.
“I don’t want to live in Maple Bay anymore,” she said. “I want to live somewhere with flat roads. Biking is my best thing.” She might as well have slapped me in the face. I grew up in flat-as-a-runway northern Alberta. We didn’t have ocean. We didn’t have snow-less Februaries. We came here for a better life, and she’s telling me it isn’t?
In this case, she has a point. Melting snow still smells like freedom to me: it reminds me of the first bike ride in the spring after a long house-bound winter. We were allowed to ride within a twenty-block radius of our house, which included a candy store and most of my friends’ houses. “Be back before the street lights come on!” my mom would yell from the front door as I rode away from her, as Eilish just did me.
So Maple Bay isn’t perfect after all. Who knew? And I guess there are good things about growing up in the prairies. Who knew?
Once she is a little stronger, and able to whoosh on her bike down our Cowichan hillside, Eilish will feel the freedom of unsupervised, self-propelled travel. When she feels the pain of having to ride up those hills, she’ll really want to move to somewhere flat. Sorry kiddo, we’re here to stay.