Posted by jdg | Thursday, May 07, 2009

My wife's earliest memories are from Pennsylvania, from her time with her dad after the divorce. She would go there for months every summer, staying in rentals in North Braddock or spending his working hours with a strange uncle who slept on a cot in the back of his barber shop, where she swept up human hair.

"Strange, isn't it, that I spent so much more time with my mom but my strongest memories are of being taken out of the routine she built for me."

"You remember the unusual. Everything else became the fabric of who you are."

Still, the unfairness of all this haunts my every day. I watch my daughter from across the room while she invents stories and I wonder what trauma that's yet to occur will define her past, what strange and unexpected turn of events will overshadow our calm, uneventful days together. For one thing is certain: not all of life can be this good.

The seat arrives from the Netherlands while she is still in school, and he watches while I install it on the handlebars of the bike. I feed him a bottle and then fit him into the contoured plastic and snap the helmet under his chin. As soon as the bike starts moving, the squealing begins. Wheeee-oooooooh. I whisper words he knows through the helmet's ventilation holes: tree; dog; car; dada. He looks back at me and smiles. His sister's empty helmet clunks in her rugged seat behind us every time the sidewalk meets a driveway.

Her eyes on the playground when she sees us approach on the bike: that is something I will never forget. I feel like an embarrassing dork, but she feels differently: I'll bet everyone else was so jealous that I got picked up on a bike. School's not done but she wants to leave. She wants to ride. On the way home, it's just the three of us and the wind, and all the things we see. Look: a pheasant! she shouts, laughing at how he walks away. The city, the air, the laughter when her toes nudge the small of my back or when his fingers brush my knee: they may not remember any of these things.

But I have to believe these things become a part of who they are.