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“Rides” of Passage

Many events mark the rite of passage: first day of school, getting your driver’s license, retirement. But what about those subtle ones, like a first kiss or that first grey hair?


We celebrated two family birthdays in August: my nephew’s eighth and my grandfather’s 94th. Though years apart on the life spectrum, each got a new set of wheels. My grandfather was far from happy with his. It’s a Transport Chair, a smaller version of a wheelchair. To him it signifies another step in his decline. Though he resisted, now he jokes, “My throne.” As for my nephew’s new ride? It came from Toys ‘R Us.

“I can get anything?” Andrew asked when we entered the store, his hand in mine.

“Yes,” I said, wanting to add, “Especially if you keep holding my hand.”

He led us down the gun aisle. His hand slipped from mine when he reached for a plastic weapon. “Anything?” he said.

I smiled. “Yes, anything but that.”

His shoulders fell as he returned the rifle, but was soon excited when we approached a wall of remote controlled vehicles. “A Corvette! A helicopter!” His brain was comparing the price with the gift card I got him.

“Which one do you want?” I asked.


He took my hand again. “Let’s keep looking.”

We passed Legos and board games and soon reached the bicycles and scooters. His eyes lit up. “This scooter makes sparks!” Andrew grabbed the display model off the shelf. Before I could say, “Be careful,” he was flying down one aisle and reappearing up another. After a dozen laps, he stopped. “Can I get this one?”

“Do you promise to wear a helmet?” I said.

“I promise.”

“Then yes, the scooter is yours.”

At home we assembled the scooter together. Then he put on a helmet and my elbow pads on his knees and took off down the street. Using his back foot to stop, it caused sparks to fly out. “So cool!” he exclaimed.

The scooter is just the first in what will be a procession of “wheels” for my nephew. There will be bicycles, a first car, a second car, a sixth. Then a few decades and a generation from now really, when I’m no longer around to hold his hand, perhaps he’ll get a red chair with wheels, just like Papa’s, his kids convincing him it’s for his own safety. He’ll probably resist too. Not because he doesn’t need it, but because he will still remember a time when his legs moved him fast as lightening down a tree-lined street, on a scooter, his aunt videotaping him, the wind on his face.

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