• 55°

There she goes

By DAVID WHITLOCK

Religion columnist

The sun hadn’t been up long when Lori and I turned the corner and headed downhill, almost halfway through our morning walk. Just then we saw our friend, Abby, and her 21-month-old daughter, Adalyn. Momma was keeping a close watch on her little one as she enjoyed a walk of her own, across their front lawn.

“Good morning,” we shouted. Adalyn beamed, and from the street, we could feel her excitement at the prospects of a brand-new day. Watching her toddle towards her momma, I was tempted to interrupt our walk and stop to talk and tease with Adalyn, like I do each Sunday morning.

Then she pointed to her bike. “Yes,” Lori said, speaking loud enough for Adalyn to hear. “It won’t be long till you’ll be riding that bike.”

It seemed like Adalyn grinned even bigger, as if she were ready for the challenge then and there.

I could imagine her growing into that bike, hopping onto it, racing it up and down her driveway. I flashbacked to a moment years ago with my oldest daughter, Mary-Elizabeth. She had finally come to that moment when she had mastered the training wheels and asked me to take them off, so she could “ride like the big kids do.”

Moments later I was running alongside her, holding onto her shirttail as she attempted to ride that pale, pink bicycle on her own, like the big kids do.

As I trotted along, and as she flexed her little arms, straining to keep the handle bars steady, I hoped she could do it. I wanted her to make it. I cheered words of encouragement to her as she peddled, her eyes peering straight ahead, narrowed on the road before her.

And then I let go.

Success. I stood there, a solitary figure, alone in the middle of the street, watching her peddle faster and faster, and farther and farther away. And I thought, “There she goes.”

The joy of seeing your children soar is tinged, even if ever so slightly, with the sadness of their absence. You would never want them to stay, and yet you have to resist that impulse to pull them back.

You nurture them to stand on their own, even though secretly, you yearn for them to lean on you, or at least let you hold their hand. And even though you may boast of their freedom to fly, you miss the days when those babies

Were — well, babies, attached to you, “at the hip.” I would watch as my oldest one moved on, from her bike to a car, through the steps, from one school to another, and then away, far away, to New York City.

I’m proud of her flight, even as I treasure the days when she was home. Adalyn waved big at us as we passed her way on our return home. Her grin drew me in, even as we continued our walk past her yard and down the street.

Her bike was where it had been when we passed by her the first time. And it will wait. Until the time is right And, then, there she  goes.