She was about six and three quarters years old and she thought the day would never arrive. It had been promised and promised and always the time was not right. Patience was not always one of her virtues. Many years from then it would be. But not yet.
She had been asking for a bicycle for her birthday for what seemed like ages. She had long outgrown the tricycle that her parents got for her as a hand-me-down from an older cousin. She wanted a real bicycle with only two wheels. And they had to be big wheels. Like a grown-up’s. Didn’t matter that she was still too short to ride it.
She finally (a day can seem like a month when you are young) got the bicycle for her sixth birthday. That was pretty young for a big two-wheeler, but she was always a bit ahead of herself. It was a beauty. Brand new and silver and black and white with some gold highlights. There were tassels on the handlebars and a basket. She and her dad took it to the local fire station and registered it and she was good to go. Or so she thought.
For the next three quarters of a year, that beautiful bicycle sat in the garage. It seemed like she would never get to ride it.
Her dad insisted that she not be allowed to use training wheels (not that they did her sister much good when she finally got her two-wheeler). If she was going to learn to ride, it would be without them. When she became much older and said that she would like to start drinking coffee, her dad said that in that case, she would have to drink it black or not at all. She was sure he thought that it would keep her from ever drinking it (both her Mom and Dad put cream and sugar in theirs). But it did not. As for learning to ride her bike, he said he would help her with that. Over and over she would ask and over and over he would have some reason why it could not be now. He would set a future date and the day would come and pass with no result but more frustration. When she became older she wondered if this too had been a lesson. So much of what her father taught her was not overt. It was hidden in nuance.
Finally, one fine summer Saturday just about a week before her seventh birthday, her dad came to her and asked if she would like to learn to ride her bike today. In many ways, she had stopped thinking about it all. She had begun to ignore the bike in the garage. The time spent admiring it had become less and less. She had even stopped touching it every time she walked past it. So she was taken quite by surprise by her dad’s question. It did not take her long to recover, however, and an enthusiastic “yes” was her reply.
Her dad moved the seat to its lowest position, but it was still too high for her short legs. As she began to despair, her dad said, “No problem. We’ll just tilt the seat down and out of the way, but you will have to stand in order to ride it.” She rolled it out of the garage as her dad explained the use of the brakes. She got into position as her dad steadied the bike with his right hand on the down-turned seat. He told her that as soon as she was ready she should start pedaling and so she did with her dad running along behind.
They spent most of the afternoon in practice while taking breaks for her dad to catch his breath. Finally, as the afternoon was getting late and dinner time was almost upon them, she called back to her dad running behind her that he could let go, because she thought she had the hang of it. But there was no response from him. She risked a quick glance behind her and there was her dad, standing stock still several houses back with a huge smile on his face. He had let go only moments before her request.
In one day, she had learned to ride her bike. She rode it to the first day of second grade that year and every day after. It never bothered her that she had to stand to do it and eventually she grew tall enough to use the seat. It’s not certain that it was her dad’s intent to teach her patience and how to handle frustration, but an argument could be made for that. Or just maybe, in his wisdom, he knew what was exactly the right time.