Abruptly, and without any warning, Isaac stopped in the middle of the trail. “Dad, I’m going to tell you this… I never give up, but I’m just going to walk a minute.”
I couldn’t really blame him. The hill we were on up Hobble Creek Canyon was tough for just about anyone, let alone a 5 year old on a regular little MX dirt bike without gears. So, I geared up, and slowly pedaled beside him for a while.
The other three children were well ahead of us. The trail was quiet and we had it all to ourselves. Right about then, I was sure glad that I had listened to him when he begged to come with us on the ride. We were all a little hesitant, but I just could not say no to that pleading, longing, hopeful look in his sweet young eyes. So, I said in the heartiest voice I could muster, “Sure, Isaac! Of course you can come along! We were hoping you’d ask.”
Well, if the joy that leaped into his eyes right them was not enough reward for me – and his three older siblings… because they sure got a kick out of it as well – then this moment on the hill was paying me back 100 fold.
“Daddy, I’m going to tell you this… today, my teacher learned me this song… ‘One, two, buckle my shoe – three, four, shut the door – five, six, pick up sticks… ah what’s the next part dad?”
I had to smile. When he started the song, his pudgy little fingers on his right hand began shooting up. But now, needing to use the other hand, he was having a little trouble managing the bike. Plus, the whole song recital had distracted him from walking in a straight line and he was zigzagging wildly around the trail. What, with my laughing so hard, and trying to keep my balance while riding VERY slow, and trying to avoid his sudden zigs here and zags there, it was just about all I could do to avoid crashing into the poor boy.
“Well, dad, what’s next?”
“Seven, eight, laa…”
“No, dad! I know the rest, don’t say it! Seven, eight lay them straight – nine, ten… oh, and dad, this is the funniest part. Everyone laughed so hard when we said this last part – dad, you are going to laugh too. Ok, listen to this… nine, ten, A BIG FAT HEN!”
The hilarity and humor and fun of shouting “A BIG FAT HEN!” at the top of his voice and hearing it echo through the canyon was too much for him. He stopped and laughed and laughed. I did the same.
We spent the next 45 minutes in conversations like this. Every now and then we would catch up to the others and ride with them a while, but for the most part, it was Isaac and I riding along and talking.
At the end of the ride stood a huge, steep hill, that rolled upward and went on and on. We all were together then and set a point about three-quarters of the way up that we dubbed the “stopping point”. There we would turn around and head back to the car. Up we went, slowly, sweating, panting, pushing, pedaling…. but we made it.
Turning around, we faced that long stretch of vertical excitement.
“Ok, guys… ready? Remember, hit the back brakes first if you need to stop or slow down… and be CAREFUL. Ok, ready, set… LET’S GO!!”
Isaac, to my sheer delight, bolted out of the starting gate first and got a jump-start on Esther, Joshua and Jared. I trailed behind watching them fly down the hill. The wind was pushing so hard against our eyes that it squeezed out tears. And our hair – oh, what a mess! And our hearts were beating wildly – half with the sheer thrill and excitement of the ride – half out of fear that the plummeting hill would reach out and drag any one of us down into a careening mass of metal and flesh.
In the end, we all made it down the hill – and down the mountain for that matter – safe and sound. We took away from that canyon the thrills of family time and the joys of exerting ourselves.
But, there were other things we took away. You see, this was just two days after we brought Margie and Sariah home from the hospital. We were out on the trail because Margie needed a break. So I took the children out on a ride.
They learned to ride in the canyon, and that they have a father that loves their mother.
They learned the importance of staying in shape physically, and they learned how to care for a new mother.
They learned how to use their gear bikes, and they learned how to be real men, fathers and daddies.
They learned the thrills of feeling a mighty rush of wind as they race down the trail, and they learned the greater joy – the real thrill of life – in serving others… first, in letting their little brother tag along, and second in serving their mother and new little sister.
A mighty rush of wind… it’s an experience I’d recommend to anyone.