Today was Bicycle Day.
While the boys were in school, Claudia and I went to the bicycle store. American readers may have an image of a small shopfront with a few dozen bikes, run by a guy with a beard. No. In Germany, a bicycle store is warehouse-sized, with hundreds and hundreds of bikes, and every imaginable sort of appurtenance and accessory, from pumps and shoes to maps and energy candy.
The technology has clearly moved on. Bike pumps? No longer the cylinder-with-footrest and a little hose. Now they fit in your back pocket and weigh nothing. Of course, it's hard for me to sort out what's new and what's just Germany. Well, I took a bike out for a test ride up and down the street and had people staring at me for not wearing a helmet. That part was Germany.
Anyway: we got Alan a little three-speed. Back in Armenia, he had a small bike with training wheels; this had come through the move somewhat battered, but Claudia put it back together, and we gave it to David. Oh, and I got a bike for myself. It has a shock absorber and 21 speeds, which strikes me rather a lot, but nobody else seems to think so.
So. Brought the boys home from school, covered Alan's eyes... well, he'd guessed already.
Here's the thing. Alan had never been on a bicycle without training wheels before. And Alan, like me, is not naturally graceful. ADHD does that to you: we tend to be clumsy, spazzy, unhandy people.
Except not always. I was always good on a bicycle. It seems to me that it draws on a different set of brain centers than, say, driving a car. Riding a bike is a bit more like playing a video game. Whatever the reason, I took to two wheels early and hard, and I thought Alan might too.
And he did. I took him and David to the playground of the school across the street. I gave him a push to get started, and then trotted alongside him holding his arm for a few circuits. And then I let go...
...and he was off, riding riding, grinning with glee. "Alan, you're riding!" "Yes, Daddy, I am! Yes I am!"
I trotted next to him for a few more circuits, then just turned him loose. He went in circles this way, then that. David tried to keep up, but his smaller bike couldn't, so after a while he just made circles of his own. (They collided a couple of times, but without much damage.) Within half an hour he'd mastered starting -- get the pedals just so, then push and stand on one -- and was well on his way to mastering stopping as well. (Remember that? Stopping a bike is a learned skill. The first dozen times, the bike goes slower and loses stability and then you just sort of fall over.)
Claudia came after us with Jacob and his little Bobby Car, which is a four-wheeled push thingy. So then all the boys were doing loops on the playground, yelling and laughing and weaving in and out. For a few minutes we even played the "Daddy is a big but slow monster who can't catch the agile little boys" -- which is a classic, and always great, but now suddenly like nine times better now that the boys are on wheels.
After a while they got tired -- new muscles getting a workout! -- so I shut it down. We walked back to the house and I turned them loose in the little pool in the back. They ripped off their clothes and splashed, while I shoved the bikes into the overcrowded garage - there might be rain tonight.
And that was Bicycle Day.