During the year I was preparing to become a father, I was bike commuting 10 miles each way down Chicago’s lakefront. I would see the various permutations of cycling parents going past. I was particularly envious of the people with mutant outgrowths on the back of their bikes that the kids sat on and peddled, literal third wheels. “Someday,” I thought.
I did not realize that someday I would also be separated from the mother of my child. Or that I would be dating a woman in New York. Or that I would want to go on the Five Boro bike ride with her. I did not realize this until the registration deadline had passed, so I bought a last minute ticket, left my daughter with her mother, and took my bike in to get it fixed.
But the bike wasn’t ready when I went to pick it up with my daughter Ronia in tow on Saturday morning. The plan was to drive her mother’s car into Center City, park at my grandma’s, and take Ronia to shul, a predominantly 20-something minyan where she would be the only child and where she enjoys stomping on the hardwood floor. If that failed, there was a park with a farmer’s market outside.
I suddenly had a brainstorm, channeling my pushy father. “You need to give me a loaner!” The bike store proprietor acquaintances miraculously obliged and handed over a bike. The novelty of a new bike made me think, why not take Ronia downtown in that? It was a 10 mile ride down the largest urban park in the United States.
Why not? My parent brain immediately came up with doubts.
1) Would Ronia freak out? Ronia and I had never biked more than a couple miles together. How would she amuse herself for an hour?
2) Would my Bubbe freak out? She didn’t at news of my separation or impending divorce. Would she be nervous on our behalf? Try to bundle our bike trailer into a cab?
3) Would it rain? Usually I plan on taking transit as backup but that didn’t seem a possibility with our bike trailer. It has a cover.
I decided we should go for it.
To my relief, Ronia was soon captivated. “Geese, daddy geese! Honk Honk! Honk Honk Honk!” and the site of the Schuykill River, which she calls the “Poopy Water.”
I realized how rarely you can be totally absorbed in your thoughts, in the presence of your child. I knew she was back there, and would let me know if anything was wrong. I thought about what kind of father I had become.
My Bubbe was impressed and delighted, and had me look up how far it was on Google Maps.
I did the Five Boro bike ride in New York City the next day, and kept up with my lady, following her spandex-clad tush like a beacon. I saw kids as young as a few months trapped with the rest of us on the Gowanus Expressway for two hours. I saw a woman carrying a baby with a diaper in her hand and a purposeful look, going I know not where. There were no shoulders.
Finally, I rode across the Verrazano Narrows bridge, trying not to worry about cross breezes, fully absorbed, exhausted, and elated.