As we go through life, we gather two things possibly more than any others: debts and bicycles.
Maybe the reason we've got all these debts is that we've bought so many bicycles.
We start off as a single adult with a bicycle of our own. Then we get married and there are two bikes in the garage. As we grow older, we get more interested in physical fitness, and we buy better bikes.
Before long, there are kids and they all get bikes. They outgrow their bikes and they get new bikes. And all along, we never seem to get rid of the old bikes.
So, before we know it, we've got so many bikes there's hardly any room left for what we're supposed to keep in the garage - half-empty paint cans, broken garden tools and big boxes of stuff that we've forgotten what's inside.
Our 7-year-old, Elizabeth, took off down the street last week on a new, big, blue bicycle. She left behind her mother and father and a little pink bike with the letter "S," for Schwinn, on the seat.
"What are we going to do with this old bike of hers," I asked my wife, Jeanne.
"I don't know," she said. "Look at all the bikes we've already got. I don't know how many more we can keep."
"It was her first two-wheel bike," I said. "Maybe we should have it bronzed."
"You can't bronze a bike," she said. "It's not like the first shoe.:
Well, she's never going to use tht bike again, and I knew what we should do. I knew we should get rid of it. I knew what I would do.
We gave her the bike for her fourth birthday. It came with training wheels. That first warm Saturday she had it, she rode back and forth on the backyard deck, her pony tail bounding and her big, dark eyes shining. She loved her little pink bike with the "S" on the seat.
Before long, she was riding in front of the house and a little later the training wheels came off.
At first she was afraid to ride on just two wheels. But she put on a blue, plastic Cubs batting helmet and I chased behind holding the seat. A few skinned knees later, she had it down. And my knees eventually healed.
I watched her wobble away from home by herself on that little pink bike with the "S" on the seat. And I watched her ride back again, confident, an accomplished rider.
In time, she rode the bike further from home, exploring the neighborhood. Sometimes she was late coming home and I'd walk down the street looking for her, worrying. Finally, in front of the house of one of her friends, I'd see the little pink bike with the "S" on the seat. I knew, then, that everything was all right, and the three of us would go home together - Elizabeth and me and the little pink bike with the "S" on the seat.
This is the way it is. Our kids grow bigger and leave behind all their childhood, all the things that stay forever small, forever tucked away in drawers and closets and garages - and their parents hearts. So many things left behind. How can we keep them all?
You go head now, Elizabeth. Grow up tall. It's what you are supposed to do. Ride your bigger, new bike off to more independence.
And some day, many years from now, whey you come home, bring along a little girl with a pony tail and big, dark shining eyes.
Bring her with you, Elizabeth. I'll have just the thing to make her smile.
The little pink bike with the "S" on the seat.
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