Listen, it’s a week of transitions coming up for me. I realized this today as I was writing my compliments out in my journal at school. It’s compliment writing time. It’s time to try and find the correct words that express the spirit of each child that is leaving our classroom this year. It’s time to think about what they’ve meant to our community and what their loss will mean. I work at a Montessori school so each child is a three year investment in learning and getting to know and becoming family. It’s difficult to let go of family sometimes, and to realize that one of you is at the moving on place.
I used to cry when my mom dropped me off for the summer (or a few weeks) at my grandmother’s farm. Then I used to cry when she picked me up. I cried on the first day of school and on the last. I cry when a good story ends and when loved ones move on. Transitions are not a thing I’m good at doing.
So here i was at this place today, which started with this morning, one of our last Bicycle Fridays of the year. We had 44 children this morning, and I spent most of my time with just one, changing a tire while the ride left without us (that’s what was needed). I spent the rest of the time blocking an intersection to get people through safely. I spent time hearing the stories pass by on the ride. It’s full of stories and comedy, and tragedy, and all the things that make up an amazing life. Falls and failures and victories.
This morning I took a second to walk down and tell a friend a story from the ride that just couldn’t keep until the end of the day. And on my way back down the hall, I thought of how very lucky I am to be here, in this place where these little things, these funny or beautiful stories and sharing them with my peers, is the very best part.
I get to work with so many people I love, both big and small. And this has been a big year. This has been a year of transitions, of Heather and I watching our one and then two and then four children ride grow to 40 or more most nice days. We’ve grown to several schools as well. It’s been a year of doing a thing we once said wasn’t possible (riding bikes across town to Williams Montessori with middle schoolers). It’s been a year of the generosity of our community in so many different ways. It’s been a year of a few close calls. Today I want to mention about one of them.
Way back in the winter, when dark was coming early, and I had to make sure my lights were always charged because I’d often need them on my ride to or from work, one of our students was hit by a car in his neighborhood on his every day route to school. Every day he’d ride to his friend’s house, and they’d ride the rest of the way to school together. On this day a driver was pulling out, car facing forward, and somehow not looking. This father, a family man, did not see Dawson as he rode in front of his car, and he pulled out and hit him. I got the message at school from one of the mothers on the street where he was hit, whose child also bike commutes. I was in my classroom at the time and my heart just dropped. I’d been riding to school with Dawson every Friday for nearly four years. He was one of our very first regular customers at Bicycle Friday. He designed the artwork for our third t-shirt (a bike with donut wheels). He’s a wonderful artist and terrific photo bomber and he loves riding bikes. I once got confused when riding with he and his dad one Friday and accidentally gave away that he was getting a new bike. His dad’s look told me that I’d probably ruined a really good surprise. I’ve ridden with Dawson at Bike Camp. There as well, he was one of our early customers. All that to say, he’s part of my family, cherished for who he is.
So that day, that moment, I went into panic. I rushed down to Heather. We messaged his mom and we eventually found out that he was ok. That evening we went to visit and I had to hold in all the crying I wanted to do, and all the ways I wanted to make everything okay because I knew Dawson wouldn’t want that. He was okay. He was held in such a graceful family and surrounded by loving people. He and his mom gave an interview to the tv news about helmet safety. But his mom wanted to do more. She wanted us to work out a plan to help children be more aware of dangers on the road. It’s one thing when you commute with a group and are very visible, it’s another thing when you’ve decided to commute to school and back on your own every day that you can.
So Dawson’s mom did something I haven’t seen many people in my life do. She took that moment, when everyone thought he probably wouldn’t be riding to school again, and she decided to be brave. When he said it was time to get back on his bike and try again, she took all of her scared and worried and broken heart and she said yes. She held all of that, and did something I’ve always referred to as “go anyway.” She said yes anyway. That’s when you make the impossible, possible. That’s when you turn the can’t be done into the I can. That’s when you show your child how to really live a life. The first time Dawson rode his bike to school after the crash, I cried. I really just couldn’t grasp that she’d let him go.
But she did more than just that. She also helped us establish a fund for helping children on the road be more visible. So Heather and I got this fund in the early spring and I instantly went into single mom on a budget mode. I got lights, I got reflective gear, I got vests….all at a low cost. Thanks to the Spoke Easy for giving us a deep discount on one of Road Hazard Bingo prizes. Thanks to Harry Johnson for actually donating lights. Thanks to George Berger for the safety vests I doled out to our daily bike commuters.
In the end, we had a surplus of both prizes and funds. So today with the permission of our “sponsor” we took 32 children and 7 adults up the hill behind East Blvd and we got pops for everyone. We took every type of cycle rider. The tiny and fiesty, the older (we even had one middle schooler come off the shuttle bus from Williams and I asked him to join us), and everyone in between. I blocked an intersection for a left turn because I was at the front and a car was coming, and then I seamlessly (it seemed to me) handed off to Heidi so I could ride up to the front. I was watching a gentleman who’d happened upon us on a bike with no helmet, trying to figure out what the heck we were doing and how this fit into his version of reality. When Heidi took my place, and I got back up front, the kids had all come to a stop at the next intersection and wondered which way we were going. I reminded the kids at the front that the first people to the cart obviously got the first popsicles (even though it’s a ride, not a race), and in the end I watched every rider come through to the popsicle cart, throw down their bikes in a semi-orderly pile and get in line.
As we were starting, A gentleman was in line, but he told us to go first. I looked at him and said, “there’s a lot coming. I’m not sure you’re making a good choice.” But he insisted on waiting for everyone in our group to come through. I’m so thankful that the people in my life are a bit more graceful than me. Heather remembered to offer him a free pop for his kindness. Heather is always giving me lessons on how to be a better human bean (that’s from the BFG). It really struck me, that the gentleman would wait like that and put someone else before himself. It struck me this year that Dawson’s mom just wanted to make sure all the children got to school safely. It struck me today that when I was on my second tire change (because I’d forgotten to patch ALL the holes the first time) that Blaine’s Dad offered to put the tire back together and ride part way to school with us.
It strikes me every day to be in a community of love and respect and compassion. It’s the end of the year time when I’m feeling all the reasons I’ve stayed put for 16 years in this one place, with no desire to move on, or be something greater or other than myself, right here…learning, every day, from human beans, big and small, how to be my own best person.