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Direct Quote

“You are the best mom. I love you more than anyone else in the entire world. You are my beloved mom, and I love you a million trillion gazillion ninety hundred thousand zillion quadrillion 10 hundred thousand ninety nine billion times.”

(I guess I should soak it up now, might not be hearing much of this when she’s 15…)

A rider’s life

Every non-rainy day we ride the bikes to school and work. There is a routine:

First Rada straps on her knee pads and I unlock the cables and u-locks. After this, we pull the bikes off the porch,  put on our helmets, and attach any relevant cargo to the front platform of my bike.  We do a final pre-flight check to make sure we’re set to go, and then head off.

We have a route. Rada always goes first. We start off on the sidewalk in front of our house. She stops 15 feet before every intersection. I consider telling her she can stop a bit closer but change my mind.

When we hit the playground we cut over to the path that goes behind the basketball court. This is the best part of the ride: no cars, no walkers, just our bikes and the asphalt river that takes us along.

Towards the end, we hit the sidewalk for one last leg of the journey.  She purposefully yells out, “to your left,” to any pedestrians up ahead.

When we get to school, the knee pads are tucked into her backpack. I cable her helmet to her bike on the rack by the school’s back door.

I send her off with a hug and a kiss, get back on my bike and head towards work.

Music Lessons

There is a piano in our apartment and I play it from time to time. When I was young and restless, I played alot, and once even fancied myself an expert of sorts. But now, with jobs, soccer practice, and daily laundry loads, I am content to get in a few minutes on the ivories here and there.

Rada enjoys music, but has showed no interest in the piano. Last winter she developed a yearning for the trombone and asked repeatedly for lessons. Worried that its weight would physically overwhelm her 4 ft frame, as well as in dreaded anticipation of the sonic emanations that would come from such a structure, I stalled and deflected for months.

Finally last week Rada turned her sites toward the violin. My ears perked up. String instrument, lightweight, fairies in the woods…? I went for it.

So last weekend we went to Johnson’s Strings for the rental. The store has shelves and shelves of violins of all sizes…. starting with little bitty ones no more than 10″ long and extending through violas, cellos and big bass viols.

We picked up a small violin for her, outfitted with bow, rosin, and shoulder pad. All the pieces fit neatly into a ultra-indestructible case.

In preparation of her first lesson Rada spent the week taking the violin out of its case, assiduously rubbing the bow with rosin, and then dragging it across the strings of the instrument. The resulting sound was excruciating like nothing I’d ever heard before: words fail me.

I’m sure that the lessons will soon infuse Rada with new skills, new techniques, new sounds.

Suzie & Sally [end note]

Rada’s white mice Suzie and Sally had a short run with us. Only in residence five months last fall, they both became sick and died within a few days of each other. Sally was the first to go and was buried in the back garden behind the azalea bush.

Suzie, however, hung on for another week before passing away. By that time it had gotten quite cold and we decided to wait a few days for the weather to get a little better. So we preserved her in the freezer for a day or two. The weekend went by and we still hadn’t gotten the chance to do it. Then, over the next days, the temperature unexpectedly got even colder. The ground was now frozen solid, and I realized that we had missed a deadline: the burial would have to be deferred until spring.

Suzie rested quietly in the freezer the entire winter, largely forgotten except for repeated reminders to babysitters who might have mistaken her for leftovers and occasional moments when I would see the folded napkin in the baggy and temporarily forget what it was.

Last week with the beautiful weather and the ground soft from rain, Rada & I took our shovels, dug a good hole next to Sally and finally closed the loop. Rada said “goodbye Suzie, thanks for being my pet”. We filled in the dirt, patted it down, and went back into the apartment, quiet for a while, each in our own thoughts. It was an ending, and however minor, it was still noted.

Tea Party

Serving tea with milk and sugar to the rabbits.

radaservestea

An encounter with history

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Houston, we have lift-off.

I never thought I’d see this day. Look at her go!

And WITH NO TRAINING WHEELS.

Here she is with Pata Suyemoto,

the bike whisperer who made all it happen:

sherpa

My friend Elizabeth describes herself as her daughter’s sherpa. For those of you not familiar with mountaineering, sherpas are local experts who hire themselves out to wealthy tourists to help with climbing the summit. The sherpas follow along behind the mountaineers, carrying tents, sleeping bags, emergency medical supplies, food for the evening meal, etc.

Elizabeth follows along behind her daughter Emilie, carrying school backpacks, extra shoes, snacks, emergency medical supplies and often food for the evening meal.

I, too, am the sherpa in my daughter’s life. Rada and I recently came back from a plane visit to my mother, and I experienced new meaning to the words ‘one carry-on bag per person’. As my daughter ran up ahead clambering off the plane, I followed behind with my carry-on, my personal bag, her carry-on, her personal bag, and two stuffed animals.

There is some poetic irony, however, to this. While visiting my mother, I went on a very productive shopping spree, and acquired way too many purchases to bring home with me on the plane. My mother graciously agreed to bring them back for me in her bags later this month.

Baseball Clinic

Rada and I showed up at the YMCA yesterday, trudging through the snow, with Rada clutching her seemingly incongruous baseball mitt in her cold mittened hand. The clinic was in a chilly basement gym, with decor that reminded me of the Y of my childhood: there were metal painted gym lockers, cream colored walls, a running track going around the top of the gym,  and everything permeated by the faint smell of chlorine, leather, and sweat.

The coach led a small group of motivated boys (oh yes, and one girl… guess who) through a sequence of exercises, explaining, demonstrating, and guiding as he went. The coach was clearly someone who had lived and breathed baseball all his life, and who, from the clarity of his directions and the quality of his enthusiasm, loved to teach.

I was prepared to be bored, but instead watched fascinated as kids threw balls to each other, occasionally experiencing the satisfying feeling of one landing squarely in their gloves. I found myself wanting to be out there tossing the ball back and forth, experiencing the pleasure of a tight throw and catch.

As I watched the teacher show them their paces it seemed almost like he was dancing… the grace and agility was so similar. The movements were practically balletic in some cases. And the joy of watching natural athletes play their sport started seeping in on me, and I found myself less dreading the ensuing games and practices that Rada’s interested will invariably lead me.

And Rada was truly enthralled. She has been yearning to throw a baseball around for months, years, really. This clinic is probably just the beginning. Does anyone know of girls softball or T-ball team in the Somerville/Cambridge area?

Sea Monster

… from the Akumel Lagoon in Tulum, Mexico.

Rada, Poul and I saw yellow striped fish, bright blue parrot fish and big grey ones. The lagoon was a naturally situated ocean pool with limestone rocks and landscaped with lush shrubbery and modern sculpture.

Rada did most of the snorkeling on her own… but when tired, she resorted to the nearest avialable back for a break.