It was definitely in April, before the Easter holidays, when I first saw them. I was probably looking towards the downtown skyline so I hadn’t noticed whether they came from the left from Aldrich or from the right on Airport, but suddenly I looked down and there they were, a father and young daughter, headed to school across Airport Boulevard.The light stopped them. And that’s exactly when I noticed them, directly below me.
They were on bicycles. He had that wiry, slim look of a practiced cyclist; and as I watched him, I admired the way he kept his bicycle steadily balanced, even though both feet were still on the pedals. His hands were on the handlebars, barely moving to the right or left. I could only imagine the tension in his shoulders as his strength (or sheer willpower) moved down to his wrists and kept everything balanced, like a slow, lazy, blues rhythm that takes you where you want to go.
His daughter, seated on a small nondescript bike, was wearing a pink bike helmet, pastel capris, and white sneakers. She seemed too young to be riding a bicycle to school, but perhaps she was just small for her age. She had stopped her bicycle next to her father’s but not in the same precise way. She was a little wobbly at first until she took her feet off the pedals. Stretching her skinny legs towards the ground, she pointed her toes like a ballerina’s and began to barely brush the ground with each foot quickly, back and forth, in order to keep the bike balanced. All the while her eyes looked straight ahead, waiting for the light to change. But the light didn’t change fast enough. She got tired. At last, in order to steady the bicycle, she had to place her left heel on the ground. Although this steadied the bicycle, it forced her body to lean a little towards the left, her right foot to come off the pedal, and her right thigh to rest, uneasily, on the front edge of the seat.
At last the light changed and things happened quickly. The little girl’s left heel stayed down but her left knee bent just a bit, enough to propel her body upwards. In one incredibly graceful movement her right leg went over the seat and her right foot dropped to the right pedal. (How does one learn something like that? Who taught her?) Father and daughter looked at each other, looked ahead, and then started moving across Airport Boulevard. They had done this before. They knew what they were doing. How easily they moved — so sure of themselves, so graceful. They reminded me of those swans that swim across Town Lake, hardly rippling the water. Once they got across the street, they continued on the bike lane until they disappeared from my view.
I doubt if I will ever see them again. Without their bicycles I would never recognize them. School is over for another year. Many changes can occur over a summer. Next year she may prefer to walk to school with her friends. Or her father may not have the leisure to ride with her in the morning. Life changes very quickly.
It saddens me that they will never know how beautiful they looked that day, but I’m happy that I was on my balcony to watch them.
Another Mueller memory to keep.