Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Writings for Randos - "Of Two Wheelers and One Lesson"

{Friday Writings for Randos - A weekly post that features pieces from other writers that touch some facet of the Randonneuring experience, even if that was not the author's intent. It's stuff that's best read out loud - slowly.} This week it's:...

An excerpt from:

A Man Called Daddy

by Hugh O'Neill
Josh was just six years old. We were at the park, late on one of those golden, New York October afternoons. Strangers were playing basketball together. Tape players dueled – salsa and Debussy – as old men played chess in the falling light. And in one corner of the sweet tumult, Josh and I were going one-on-one with a two-wheeler. The training wheels had been taken off. A rite of passage was in the air.

I was playing the time honored Daddy role – running beside Josh, one hand on the back of the saddle, the other on a handlebar – steadying him as he gained speed then launching him.

“Try to keep your weight balanced,” I said.

He was playing the traditional kid role – human cannonball. With each attempted takeoff, the problem was the same. No sooner would I let go of him then Josh would panic, stop pedaling – thereby losing vital forward momentum – wobble left, overcorrect to the right, and crash to the blacktop with a yelp.

I told him to keep pedaling through the wobble and turn the handlebars more gently. But no luck. Each time his flight path was the same. Over and over. He was, however, dogged. He always got up and tried again. Despite the banged knees and scraped elbows, the boy kept getting back on this horse. Then, after about a half hour of tumbles to the pavement, the breakthrough moment arrived.

Once again I ran alongside him and let him go. Once again, he wobbled left and in a panic overcorrected right. But then, the good news. He corrected back to the left again and then once more - this time, gently - back to the right. What’s more, he pedaled throughout and found this equilibrium.

Ten yards, twenty yard, thirty yards. Behind him, I was hunkered down on the pavement, exhausted from all that running, bent over at the waist. Josh made a sound that one word cannot properly describe. It was a gasp-whimper-laugh-shout-cry for help, at once euphoric and terrified, a beautiful, eureka sound. His little shoulder were hunched up in elation and dread. Josh was going, on his own, out there on the high wire.

* * *  

I might not be able to do much myself, but I could commend my kids to the glory of human beings at full throttle. I could teach them to keep pedaling.


  1. I have six kids ages 22 thru 9. The details for the older ones are a bit fuzzy but I still remember that "breakthrough" moment well with the younger ones!!

    Another great Friday column Nigel, thanks.

    1. You're welcome. I thinks that's a moment to remember from both sides of the bike. I have young one about to get there soon.