Jul 28, 2014
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On Weddings, Bikes and Unsolicited Advice

Ten, nine, eight, seven … the countdown to seeing a daughter all grown up and married.

On Weddings, Bikes and Unsolicited Advice

Our youngest daughter is getting married in just 10 days. Although it will be a simple family wedding, my inner Martha’s “to do” list seems longer than Santa’s will be come Christmas Eve.

The car-less bride and I were in my Subaru running preliminary errands when my phone quacked. (Yes, quacked. I set my husband’s incoming ring tone to “duck.”) Emily put her father on speaker phone and he said, “Hey, Em — I have rewards points and can get you a new bike! There’s a 21-speed Schwinn in stock at the downtown Oakland Sears. Want it?”

She hesitated, and said, “I don’t know, Dad … I think I want to research it a bit first.” I turned my head in surprise, eyes wide and said, “Si — get the bike! If Emily doesn’t like it, I’ll ride it.” I haven’t ridden a bike outside the Bladium spin classroom in years. Just the mental image of pedaling that hard and actually getting somewhere triggered a whole school of endolphins.

I know. The correct spelling is “endorphins” but that’s what I call them. I like the image.

I dropped Em off at her new apartment on the other side of the island and put the seats down flat in the back of my car to make room for the bike. Si and I drove through the tunnel to the underground loading dock in Oakland where we maneuvered the large rectangular box through the back hatch and returned to Alameda.

Standing in our driveway, I spent several minutes locating the English version of the assembly instructions while Si grabbed his toolbox and ratchet set from the back of his Ford. He had that bike more than halfway assembled before I read the first instruction. So I tossed the brochure and straddled the bike to hold it still while he finished the job.

He said, “Take her for a test drive!” I ran inside, grabbed the bike helmet purchased earlier that summer from a neighbor at our block garage sale and strapped it beneath my chin. You know what they say about never forgetting how to ride a bike?

Well, they’re wrong.

I wobbled like a "Weeble" but luckily didn’t fall down. I made it two-thirds of the way down the block and steadied a bit, then had to swerve to avoid a neighbor backing out of their driveway. (Believe it or not, a dead-end street can be hazardous. It’s so quiet that drivers often forget to check their rear view mirrors. I have a small dent in my tailgate from backing into a barbeque at our Fourth of July block party.) Thankfully I made it back to Si in one piece and stepped off the bike just as his phone rang. It was Emily.

She said, “What are you guys up to?” I filled her in and she said, “Really? THANK you! I’ll be right over.” Within five minutes, she pulled into our driveway on her old rusted college bicycle.

She loved the new Schwynn. Just like 15 minutes of fame, I had 15 minutes of bike ownership. But that’s ok ... Si will earn more rewards points, and the only thing better than getting a brand-new bike is giving a brand-new bike to a daughter without a car.

As Emily parked her old bike in our backyard and mounted the new one, I said, “Em, do you have a good bike lock? Bikes get stolen all the time in Alameda.” She smiled and said, “Yes, Mom. I have a good bike lock. And I have a good place to store it. It will be fine.” I watched her turn the corner onto San Antonio before I headed inside.

Later, she called to thank her dad for the bike — her replacement transportation. He said, “Em, do you have a good bike lock?” I chuckled. I knew the answer without hearing her reply.

The next night our eldest, Sarah, came home for a family dinner. As we sat around the dining room table reviewing the highlights of our weeks, Emily told Sarah how much she loves that new bike. Sarah said, “Em, do you have a good bike lock?” Si and I burst out laughing. Emily showed gracious restraint as she answered that same question for a third time.

My baby will be 24 in November. I was her age when I had her older sister. It’s about time we trust she knows the world is full of bike thieves and it’s important to have a good lock.

The more I thought it over, the more I realized that maybe it wasn't about bike locks. Maybe it’s about protecting a daughter or a sister who is standing at attention on the concrete pad, ready to rocket into the unknown. There’s no safety manual or launch checklist for marriage. And we’re counting down.

So I gave Emily an early wedding gift the other night at that dinner table. In the face of unsolicited advice from any family member, she has my permission to respond, “Do you have a good bike lock?”

We will take it as our cue to just stand aside and watch her fly.

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