The other morning my daughter Rebecca announces that she’d like to ride her bike to photography camp –- alone. We strike a deal that I’ll accompany her in the morning, letting her lead the way, but that yes, she can ride home on her own. She’s twelve now, and has a cell phone…just in case.
The camp is little more than a mile from our home. And yet, she must cross a few wide streets and dodge traffic. Which has me inwardly panicked; images of the time she was struck by a car six years ago while on her pink Disney bike rise quickly. I want to retch at the memory, but there’s no way I’d reveal such fears to Rebecca. She’s come too far. Choosing to ride her bike is a triumph.
All day I toggle between then and now, the horror of watching my pigtailed daughter struck before my eyes, and forcing myself to see her as the newly independent, confident girl she is today. She still bears a scar on her shoulder from the accident, but that’s all. “So lucky,” said the paramedics first on the scene that awful October day. “Miraculous,” the E.R. physician echoes.
Months and months passed before I stopped reliving the accident. I couldn’t release the sight of my daughter on the ground, nor the possibility of what could have been. I avoided the intersection where she was hit, and ignored my daughter’s pleas that she never wanted to ride a bike again. The ninety-one-year-old woman driving the car was so shaken that she vowed never to drive again.
But something bigger was at stake for me: the tangled voodoo thinking that our family was being targeted. Wasn’t it enough that Rebecca’s father, my husband, died of a brain tumor at thirty-nine? We left New York City to make a fresh start. Hadn’t we had our share of bad things? Now that we were making a new life in Colorado, weren’t we deserving of a clean slate?
It has taken years for me to see beyond the lens of loss. All of us must make sense of random, terrifying, inexplicable events. Life hardly unfolds to our desires even when we mistakenly but earnestly believe we should be eligible for premium life insurance, the eternal kind. Paying our dues is an illusion; life can be cruel at the sweetest of moments.
Equally important is the realization that we have the ability to choose joy, act bravely, live boldly. This is the gift we pass along to our children.
I wasn’t able to protect my daughter the day she was hit on her bike. I am, however, able to cheer her courage today. Love and letting go co-mingle; this is the axiom of parenthood.
Ride Rebecca, ride.