It is June in Portland. And Paris. The season of wheels and chains, showers and sun, cycling and speed. My grandson Stanley follows the Tour de France, interrupting his day to stare at televised images of slipstreaming pelotons, crazed crowds, and enemy weather. Sometimes, while he watches, Stanley fingers his own tires, checks his light, clutches his handlebars. He smooths a palm over red and silver paint. He brushes dust from the saddle. Then, as the pros zoom down descents and power up hills, Stanley swings a leg over his frame and with a swaying motion, propels it forward. And back. His bike is made of wood and sits on a rocking platform. Stanley is 18 months old.
I have two daughters who sprinted from birth to adulthood. I bragged about their advances as they shot from babies in onesies to young women in sports jerseys. From college students on campus to teacher and accountant at work. I fed and clothed and educated them—and delighted in their prodigious progress.
When Gwen was pregnant, I could only envision another baby girl, a replica of my children. Stanley took me by surprise. I wasn’t sure what to do with a boy. But then he curled into my shoulder and smelled like milk. He smiled when I kissed his velvet cheek. He answered my questions with a gurgle. And just like Gwen, he sped fast from infant to toddler. From cooing to crawling. From wobbling to walking. Already, a balance bike sits in the corner waiting for him to outgrow his rocking one. When I visit in a few months, will he be shifting a derailleur?
When Gwen was three years old, she loved her old-fashioned tricycle—two enormous wheels in back, rubbery, thick and black; a silvery steel handlebar and shiny plastic streamers in front. Most of the summer, red-white-and-blue ribbons from the Fourth of July parade sailed on the wind of her ride. As she zipped down our sidewalk, her chubby legs spun the pedals into a whirr and I shouted as she raced by. “Go, Gwen, go,” I said, an encouragement to fly faster.
This day, I boost Stanley onto the rocking bike Grandpa made. As I settle him, I brush my lips against his neck. He smells like oatmeal and brown sugar. Before I can ask what the cycle says, Stanley answers. “Brrrmmm, brrrmmm.” Freed of parental goals and expectations for accomplishments, I wish to prolong this babyhood. To keep him small just a few days longer.
Stanley rides long and hard in front of the picture window, and when a road cyclist whizzes by, he lifts his pudgy fingers to wave. The rider, bent low over his drops, ignores us and shoots past. I wonder what he is racing, where he is going, and why he must get there so fast.
Nancy Jorgensen is a musician and writer. Her choral education books are published by Hal Leonard Corporation and Lorenz Corporation. Go, Gwen, Go (Meyer & Meyer Sport), her 2019 memoir of daughter Gwen Jorgensen’s journey from CPA to Olympic Champion, will be released in October. Other works appear or are forthcoming at Prime Number Magazine, Smith Magazine, Cagibi, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Crack the Spine and elsewhere.