Diana learned to ride a bike today. She wavered and swerved on the sidewalk in front of our house, able to pedal a tiny bit more each time before putting her feet on the ground. Her face lit up and she said, “It’s like swimming!” and I remembered how she used to celebrate every doggy-paddle float with a “Look, Mama!”
By lunchtime, she was teetering across the whole block.
Just a couple of days ago, I found her brothers hunched over the blue bike she got for Christmas when she was 4, training wheels and wrenches lying on the ground.
“We’re going to teach Diana how to ride a bike,” Mark, 12, said, as Luke, 9, lowered himself to the ground, trying to wedge the pump nozzle into a tight spot between the spokes.
I felt like I was walking into a storybook after living in a dystopian movie the past few days. The boys held her up, one on either side, and walked beside her as she wobbled along the sidewalk.
“Don’t get discouraged,” said Luke. “You’re better than me when I did it,” and I looked at him to make sure it was he who was talking.
The morning ended with Diana crying and the bike returning home on my shoulders, but on Sunday she got back on again. And today, after doing some math worksheets and watching a first grade teacher video, she wanted to bike.
“Did you see that?” she said over and over, as I sat on the grass in the tree box and watched her pedal 4, 5, 6 times before she lost her balance.
When it got close to noon, I called, “Luke, it’s your turn to make lunch!” He said OK to the supplies I left on the counter and disappeared inside, where Virginia and Sofia were making their own quinoa lunch and finishing a Zoom lesson.
In 30 minutes, sandwiches wrapped in tin foil began to appear on the purple picnic blanket spread on the front circle. “Whoa, Mama, did you see that?” Mark said as he set out glasses of sparkling water. “Diana did almost the whole block!”
I sat down next to the sandwich labeled ‘Mama,’ unwrapped it, and bit into layers of turkey breast and pepperoni, pillowy slices of olive bread, and tangy yellow mustard. “These sandwiches are so good,” I said. “Thank you, Luke.”
“Yeah, so good,” agreed Mark and Diana.
Compared to the meals I would often have when they were in school — rice cakes eaten over the sink — this was a party. Red and yellow tulips stood like dancers around us, and the white blossoms of a dwarf Montmorency cherry twinkled above. The noon-white sun seemed to sterilize me.
“My back is sizzling,” said Mark, getting up. And then all three of them hoisted their bikes up and rode together for the first time, doing circles in the middle of the street, because no one else was around.